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The São Paulo Protests in 7 Acts

How lots of pissed off people fought to lower a city's bus fare.

Back in October 2012, we covered a protest staged by the Free Pass Movement (abbreviated as MPL in Portuguese) for the National Free Fare Fight Day in São Paulo city. Earlier this year, we aired a documentary about the first round of demonstrations, where folks warned that the MPL was going to bring São Paulo to a halt.

Demonstrations this past June started up again after the bus fare went up R$ 0.20 (eight cents) in the city. For the first protest called by the MPL, on June 6, 2013, thousands of people joined in. Things got out of control after the police reacted to demonstrators who blocked the 23 de Maio Avenue, a major highway in the city. Not really understanding what had happened, a lot of people called the whole movement a group of punks; “vandals” and “troublemakers” were the most common adjectives used to describe the MPL. Trying to use the publicity to become stronger and pressure even more the state and city administrations, the MPL promptly called for a another demonstration.


For the third protest, on June 11, a small crowd marched in heavy rain from Paulista Avenue to downtown. São Paulo had been brought to a halt for sure, and the fare would have to go down. Or, so they thought. But Governor Geraldo Alckmin and Mayor Fernando Haddad would not go back in their decision and would not negotiate transportation fare reductions. On the contrary, Alckmin told the police to be even tougher on, well, the vandals.

Which brings us to the fateful fourth protest, on June 13. While the mainstream media in Brazil continued to call for more violence against demonstrators, more people than ever joined the protest in front of the Municipal Theater. Going up Consolação Street, the masses stopped as they were blocked by the police. Before they could negotiate their route, the police hit hard, with rubber bullets and tear gas. What had been so far a symbolic battle for one of the city’s most iconic spots turned out to be a massacre. Police officers cornered everyone, arresting tons of people and shooting rubber bullets aimlessly. Dozens were hurt, including people who were just passing by. Among the injured were over 20 journalists from different outlets who were just doing their job. The police’s brutal reaction was widely documented and helped turned around public opinion about the movement.

This documentary, produced by VICE Brazil, tells the whole story of how a small protest movement grew bigger and fought to lower a city's bus fare.


More about the bus fare protests in São Paulo:

Teenage Riot - São Paulo

The Battle of Consolação

A Hundred Thousand People Marched in São Paulo Monday

Special thanks to Antônio Jordão and TVT.