- Felipe Souza – @felipe_dess
- From BBC News Brasil in São Paulo
Contrary to what was announced by the government of São Paulo, the vast majority of protesters who participate in the pro-Bolsonaro protests on Avenida Paulista are not being searched by military police. All access to the region is free without barriers, unlike what happened in other protests in the capital of São Paulo. The Secretariat of Public Security states, in turn, that there are reviews in ‘strategic points’ (see below).
The strategy of searching protesters had been announced by São Paulo Governor João Doria (PSDB), amid fears that active and retired public security agents would participate armed in the protests. This concern gained strength after these agents actively summoned soldiers and officers to the acts.
“Everyone who goes to the demonstrations, both for Bolsonaro and those who will go against Bolsonaro, will be searched. The Military Police received the orientation so that everyone, without exception, with backpacks, with purses, with pockets, will be searched. Under no circumstances will any type of weaponry in the possession of anyone be allowed, even if they are retired police officers,” said Doria on September 1st.
The BBC News Brasil report questioned several military police officers who are patrolling around the region of the demonstration on the subject. They claimed that protesters were not searched because the protesters “arrived ahead of schedule”. They were expected, according to them, from 10 am, but many arrived before 9 am.
BBC News Brasil then asked the same military police if they would start searching the protesters after 10 am. But they said that “there was no guidance in this direction”.
The report, which has been on the avenue since 8:00 am, also followed the arrival of several caravans at the site, and none of the hundreds of members were searched.
At around 10 am on Tuesday (7), several blocks on Avenida Paulista were already occupied by protesters at the protest marked by attacks on ministers of the Supreme Court (STF), statements of support for Bolsonaro and requests for military intervention, among others claims.
BBC News Brasil questioned the São Paulo Military Police by e-mail about the absence of barriers and police searches of protesters in the Avenida Paulista region, as had been announced by the governor and other authorities.
By telephone, after the publication of the report, the Public Security Secretariat’s press office confirmed that there is no blockade on the avenue, but stated that there are searches at strategic points, in nearby subway stations and in certain areas of Paulista.
“The Military Police clarifies that the approaches and searches of persons and objects (backpacks or bags) are carried out in different parts of the city and not only in nearby areas or places of access to the acts carried out on Tuesday (7)”, he added the corporation in note. “In parallel to the magazines, the Military Police teams follow the monitoring and inspection work through the portable operational cameras (COPs) of the Olho Vivo system, in addition to patrolling PMs who monitor the demonstrations close to the participants and the intelligence service of the corporation.”
President Jair Bolsonaro will participate in the events in São Paulo in the afternoon. In the morning, he attended the protest in Brasília, where military police officers were accused of not having prevented protesters from approaching Congress and the STF.
Police let protesters break through blockades in Brasilia?
Videos released by the press and circulating on social networks show that the removal of the containment bars and barricades by protesters did not meet strong police resistance in Brasília on the eve of September 7th.
In May this year, for example, police officers even used rubber bullets in different cities against demonstrators protesting against Jair Bolsonaro’s government.
But on the eve of the pro-Bolsonaro protests, few police appear in the footage, trying to converse peacefully with the protesters. In one of the scenes, a protester “slaps” a police officer on the back, who ignores him, keeps walking and following the movement. Meanwhile, a man shouts: “We’ve just invaded, we’ve just invaded. Police can’t handle holding people back!”
Even cars and trucks managed to descend halfway down the avenue, despite the fact that vehicles were prohibited from entering the Esplanade during the 7th of September. In another image circulated on social media, a police car is used to support a Brazilian flag and pro-Bolsonaro posters.
The protesters stayed close to the Itamaraty Palace, a few meters from the Congress and from the descent that gives access to the STF, the main target of attacks by Bolsonaro supporters.
Precisely because of the fear of invading these buildings, the DF Security Secretariat had decided days ago to prevent the demonstrators from going down the Esplanade of Ministries, which occurred with the breaking of the containment barriers.
BBC News Brasil asked the PM-DF and the DF Security Secretariat why it was not possible to contain the blockade and why non-lethal resources, such as spray and tear gas, were not used, but did not receive an answer to the questions until the latest update of this article.
Participation of military and military police in protests
Under Brazilian law, no active military or military police officer may participate in political acts with symbols that refer to the institutions where they work. They can only participate in demonstrations if they are in plain clothes, like ordinary citizens, and unarmed.
If they do not comply with this rule, they can be included in the Military Penal Code for crimes of riot or revolt (when there are two or more involved). And the sentences can reach 20 years in prison in a closed regime.
But a significant number of reserve or off-duty officers are expected to attend the protests.
Experts explain that the law allows any citizen to request changes in public policies, as long as it is done in a democratic way. But that is not the case, according to them.
“It is not a request for a change in public policy. It is clear between the lines that they want a break in democracy. It is a speech as if it were pro-democracy, but they ask that there not be a Congress that hinders Bolsonaro, without STF and without one Independent Judiciary,” said Luiz Alexandre Souza da Costa, political scientist, professor at UERJ and retired Military Police major in Rio de Janeiro, in an interview with BBC News Brasil.
Have watched our new videos on YouTube? Subscribe to our channel!