Text by MNCR (translated to English for globalrec.org)
The fight for quality public transportation and fare reductions across Brazil didn’t start today. In 2005, during the World Social Forum, this movement was baptized as the Free Pass Movement (Movimento Passe Livre – MPL). Its aim has been to fight for a “truly public transportation system, one that is free for the entire population”. It is a leftist movement with similar principles as the MNCR — that is, it’s “autonomous, non-partisan, horizontal, and independent”. Over the years, MPL’s actions have continued to criticize the model of public transportation in Brazilian cities that excludes a huge portion of the population because of its expensive fares.
Today we see sweeping manifestations happening as a result of the organizing efforts of these youth, who’ve now conquered the reduction of the bus fares in many cities across the country. Millions of people have taken back the streets in solidarity with the activists who have been victims of police violence and sent to prison, as well stripped of the right to organize and protest. Popular participation spiked after police violence affected members of the press and ordinary people passing by.
In only one day, half a million Brazilians took to the streets in several cities across the country, making their demands heard and demonstrating their indignation on a number of themes. Some of the themes include the government’s investment in major sporting events, the eviction of poor populations and lack of investment in health and education, as well as corruption. With PEC37 (which has now been defeated), the Public Ministry (federal district attorney’s office), an independent judicial body, would be stripped of its power to investigate (only federal police would could have the power to conducted criminal investigations).
These are legitimate and necessary demands to improve the country, however, a portion of the population that has taken to the streets does not have the necessary political background to engage in these topics. The result has been very vague demands without concrete objectives, such as “against corruption”, “against the World Cup”, “against the government”, “against political parties”, “against everything”, etc. When people avoid concrete objectives and are simply moved by the enthusiasm of the protests, they become easy targets for manipulation.
The Brazilian elite, with the support of the equally elitist media giants, tries to use popular protests to support their its interests. It introduces themes that are not in the interest of the majority, aside from policies that will go against the demands of the popular movements. A few conservative and prejudiced groups have been attending the protests and touting authoritarian demands. These groups are formed by members of the wealthy and middle classes and openly support racist ideas and attitudes towards Black people, women, gays, people from northeastern Brazil, and foreigners. They violently attacked activists belonging to leftist political parties and social movements, hampering the right to protest of those who have historically taken to the streets.
The MNCR has always struggled in the streets for more just and sustainable cities. We are in solidarity with the struggle for quality and accessible public transportation. We fight to guarantee our rights to the city and to be able to use the streets with dignity, and we fight against the eviction of the poor. We support popular protests, concrete and well-organized causes for the construction of popular power.
We are of the people and we won’t let the right (conservatives) appropriate our popular protests.
Long live our struggle!
Movimento Nacional dos Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis – MNCR