For the past few months protesters in Brazil have taken to the streets to oppose the government and its mega-spending on FIFA World Cup projects. A new group of protesters in Rio de Janeiro is trying a different approach—called Occupy Cabral. Instead of protesting in front of the parliament building, this group has decided to bring the demonstration to the doorsteps of Governor Sergio Cabral. Occupying the front steps of his palace, the demonstrators are for the most part quiet. But they get drivers who pass by to honk their horns – annoying the neighbors and Governor Cabral.
“It is their way of saying that Cabral should be thrown out of the government. Not everyone can be in the streets protesting and occupying, so the way they can be with us is by honking,” explained Ernesto Brito, a professor at a private university. Brito has left his job to take part in what he calls “the revolution” to help bring change for the oppressed people of Brazil.
The front of the parliament building, only a few miles from the governor’s palace, is well protected and not easy to occupy. The protesters, who chose a residential area where Rio de Janeiro’s most affluent citizens live in hopes of turning them against Governor Cabral, have been here for almost a month, day and night. None of their demands have been met. Brito and other protesters believe that antagonizing the powerful neighbors of Governor Cabral is the first step in getting his attention.
“The idea why we are here is very simple. We thought if the governor or the government doesn’t give justice to the people, we will not give them peace. So the idea is to make noise, show them our presence and let the governor know that we don’t want him anymore,” said Brito.
Most Brazilians are convinced the government is rife with corruption. Although Governor Cabral promised real change when he took office, according to the protesters, he has not only broken his promises, but he has also used brutality against his citizens, resulting in the death of a protester two months ago, and used the World Cup preparations to steal money from the government.
The fact that Governor Cabral has not met with the protesters might have to do with the high demands the protesters are making — including asking for Governor Cabral’s immediate resignation.
While Occupy Cabral was first targeted specifically at Governor Cabral, the movement has quickly spread outside Rio to include protesting against other corrupt and unjust politicians. Participants hope that peaceful demonstrations such as this will bring a more effective change.
“It is an awakening for the people that we have power and we must fight to resist corrupt politicians,” said one of the protesters, Bruno Gorender. “This is not just about one person or one law; it is about 500 years of oppression. We are here because we believe we can change. We are supposed to live in a democratic state but he [Cabral] has shown us that he does not support democracy.”
It is illegal for government officials to use police or military force to fight peaceful protesters, but recently a group of private security guards, hired, protesters say, by Governor Cabral, came at night and beat the protesters with wooden sticks and used water hoses to clear the road. Since then, the governor’s popularity, even among some of his supporters, has dropped, according to the protesters.
“Some of these neighbors have turned against him now and they are demanding Cabral to meet with us. We have been in the streets for one month. He never took a moment to talk to us. Never. But we wouldn’t let him leave unpunished,” said Brito.
Although the governor and his family have left their home, it appears this group of protesters is not leaving anytime soon.