Bay Area Brazilians show solidarity with peaceful protests 

click to enlarge Protesters in Rio De Janeiro march June 30 to highlight economic concerns even as the nation prepares to host the World Cup and Olympics. - FELIPE DANA/AP FILE PHOTO
  • Felipe Dana/AP file photo
  • Protesters in Rio De Janeiro march June 30 to highlight economic concerns even as the nation prepares to host the World Cup and Olympics.

When Brazil saw some of the largest protest demonstrations in the country's history last month, Bay Area residents worked to draw attention to the issue by demonstrating in solidarity.

More than 200,000 citizens took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and other major Brazilian metropolitan areas after the government enacted a transportation fare increase, which, in a country where the monthly average pay is what would be about $340 here, would have dramatically affected many citizens.

The protests started against this fare hike, but when police action against the mostly peaceful protesters escalated, the situation then gave many citizens the opportunity to speak out against the country's other issues, like government corruption and high violent crime rates.

Among the sizable community of Brazilian immigrants on the Peninsula — particularly in Daly City, San Bruno and South San Francisco — the spate of protests in the home country sparked a solidarity demonstration in San Francisco, organized mostly via social media.

"I first learned about the protests [in Brazil] on Facebook, my cousin posted something about it," said Ricardo Aranha de Sousa, a Bay Area protest organizer originally from São Paulo. "That got my attention. So that's how I've been following the situation there, and also how I started the event and the protest in San Francisco."

Livia Santos, 24, also from Sao Paulo, co-organized the mid-June protest in San Francisco to draw attention and demonstrate solidarity with those marching the streets in Brazil.

"It is beautiful to see so many people who have never been involved with politics out on the streets fighting for a better country," Santos said.

She said approximately 500 protesters came out for the Bay Area peaceful solidarity demonstration last month at Justin Herman Plaza. Another protest is scheduled to happen in Brazil today, and Santos anticipates more demonstrations in the future as well.

"I believe that the protests will keep on happening," Santos said. "Brazilians are now fighting for way too many causes, some specific ones and some broad ones."

But Santos believes that the next step, in the immediate future, is for people to educate themselves as much as possible about the complexities of the issues facing Brazilians, so they can be more articulate and more united in their cause.

The world's attention is turning toward Brazil in anticipation of 2014's World Cup and 2016's Summer Olympics, but some Brazilians in the Bay Area don't believe their country is ready to host major events like those, with so much social and political unrest there.

"Many people are complaining about corruption and inequality in Brazil, and both the World Cup and the Olympics have been extremely expensive," Santos said. "So a country that still doesn't provide basic needs for its population is clearly not ready to host those events."

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Emilie Mutert

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