On Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 the residents of the Borel favela (Morro do Borel, occupied since 1921 in Rio de Janeiro) went out in the streets in a collective effort to break the curfew that the cops of the local UPP (‘Police Pacification Unit’) have imposed in the area since November 28th. This particular repressive unit, which was first established in November 2008, has as official target the recovery of state control over communities that used to be under the control of druglords. It’s obvious that this supposed war on drugs is nothing but a pretext, while the aim is the permanent presence of heavily armed uniformed gangs that plunder the favelas and push forward the urban gentrification and sanitation of the occupied zones, all these for the benefit of the big construction companies, also in view of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil (see here).
In the long list of everyday state violence and assassinations against people of rundown areas, the cold blooded murder of 18-years-old Mário Lucas Souza Vianna Pereira was recently added. He was shot dead in his home by cops who barged in at dawn of November 26th. They were identified as members of the 4th military police company operating at the Fazendinha neighbourhood, who invaded the Complexo do Alemão —a group of favelas in northern Rio de Janeiro where the UPPs are prevailing as well.
Under these highly militarized circumstances, where the total curfew after 21.00pm means that no one is allowed to go out of their doorsteps, where street parties with funk music have been prohibited since June 2010—the same time when the local UPP was established in the Borel favela—the residents decided to resist and openly defy the state of emergency. Under the slogan ‘Occupy Borel’ (inspired by the Occupy movement worldwide), people gathered at first on São Miguel street and then marched and danced through the favela. Their final destination was the Terreirão, a location where traditionally the community meets and celebrates its festivals.
The cops were clearly pissed off by this reappropriation of public space that the favela people and solidarians from other parts of the city had organized, but they avoided any violent confrontation. The tradition of mobilization prominent in the Morro do Borel community goes back to 2003, when after the execution of four youths by the uniformed assassins of the Brazilian military police a series of actions were held, the culmination being a big demo through the main streets of Rio’s northern zone Tijuca.