Squatters, police clash in Rio de Janeiro; 5,000 evicted
April 20, 2014
Squatters in Rio de Janeiro clashed with police last week after a Brazilian court ordered the eviction of nearly 5,000 people from buildings they had occupied.
More than 1,000 police officers arrived on Friday to move people out of the buildings and parking lot owned by the telecommunications company Oi. The move came amid preparations for the World Cup from June 12 to July 13.
Some squatter families left peacefully, but many others fought police with rocks and Molotov cocktails and set fire to parts of a building, four buses and a police cruiser, police said. The vehicles of local TV stations were also attacked.
Officers used tear gas, stun grenades and pepper spray to disperse the families.
"When the police arrived, some of them asked us to remain calm but others started pushing us around," squatter Drielo Almeida told TV Globo’s G1 internet news portal. "Now I am crying because I have nowhere to go to. I have no place to live."
Rodrigo Moreira said faced a choice of squatting or starving.
"With the money I earn I could either pay rent or eat. That is why I came here," he told G1.
Police spokesman Claudio Costa told the Globo TV network that the “eviction was successfully completed in three hours,” but that groups of people continued clashing with police in surrounding areas.
During the clash, five police officers, three children and four squatters were injured and taken to nearby hospitals where they were treated for bruises and smoke inhalation and discharged.
Costa said police detained more than 20 people, some for attacking police officers and others who tried to loot a supermarket and shops in nearby neighborhoods.
The O Globo newspaper said its reporter Bruno Amorim who was covering the eviction was taken into custody but released hours later.
Brazil correspondent Zoe Sullivan reported for Al Jazeera in January that 78 families’ homes in Camaragibe were appropriated by the municipal government to make way for an expanded urban transit hub set to serve international guests to the World Cup. Sustainable housing advocates around the globe have for decades blamed preparations for international sporting events for displacing locals, despite the promised — but often unrealized — economic benefits derived from injecting foreign capital into a local economy. China, by way of example, reportedly barred scores of Beijing residents from protesting land-grabs, and the resulting displacement, required to make way for new Olympic facilities.
Photos via Reuters