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Northern Brazil Peace Rally Pushes Back Against Rising Violence

More than 1,000 people rallied for peace in the streets of the Canindezinho neighborhood in the northern coastal city of Fortaleza to denounce youth violence and the poor conditions young people have to endure living in the area known as Greater Bom Jardim.

Canindezinho's main square was taken over by youth, students, community leaders, artists, and supporters in the afternoon of 18 April, 2013. ”How many youth will need to die before the society and the government take action?” one banner carried during the procession read.

Greater Bom Jardim, which is made up of five neighborhoods, has 491 deaths linked to violence between 2007 and 2010, according to the organizers of the march [pt]. The area counts a population of 204,281 throughout the five neighborhoods, of which 120,957 are between 0 and 29 years old, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) 2010 census.

Earlier in March 2013, local newspaper O Povo wrote about the rise of violence in Fortaleza [pt]: in February, 142 people were killed, 15 of which were in the neighborhoods of Greater Bom Jardim. Over the first 59 days of 2013, the Bom Jardim neighborhood leaded statistics [pt] with 22 guns seized by the police – in 2012, the neighborhood stood in third place, with 88 gunds seized.

Some people arrived early to prepare their posters on the benches, while others arrived with their designed banners: they wanted to talk about youth, peace and life. Some of them wore t-shirts with pictures of neighbors and relatives as a way to pay them honors.

Uma faixa pergunta “Quantos jovens precisarão morrer para a sociedade e o estado tomarem uma atitude?”; outra faixa declara o “Manifesto da paz”. Foto de Icaro Martins, publicada no Facebook.

A banner poses the question: “How many youth will need to die before the society and the government take action?”; the other banner says “Manifesto of peace”. Photo by Icaro Martins, published on Facebook.

The rally was organized by the Youth Agents of Peace group (Jovens Agentes de Paz [pt] – JAP), a project run by the Centro de Defesa da Vida Herbert de Souza [pt], in partnership with schools, community associations, non-governmental organizations, and artistic and religious groups.

Caminhada da Paz do Grande Bom Jardim. Imagem compartilhada na página do Facebook do projeto Jovens Agentes de Paz.

Peace Rally in the Greater Bom Jardim. Image from the Facebook page of profile Jovens Agentes de Paz.

In the group's open letter for the protest, entitled “Against state violence and announced execution: we shout out for life!”, which may be read online [pt] on the website of Centro de Defesa da Vida Herbert de Souza, listed several struggles in the fight against violence, including illiteracy (the letter states more than 9,611 children, adolescents and youth, between 5 and 24 years old, are illiterate); diseases related to sanitary conditions and inadequate infrastructure; and the involvement of local boys and girls into routes of sexual exploitation.

The letter, which was handed in during the rally, was also critical to the current national debate on the age of criminal responsibility, which in Brazil is set at 18 years old:

Não bastasse esse cenário de horror, os jovens ainda têm que carregar a responsabilização da violência crescente no Brasil, em um processo de criminalização da juventude, que se articula com o consequente aumento do encarceramento de jovens e a batalha de setores reacionários pela redução da maioridade penal. Ou mesmo, têm que sofrer com a truculência de abordagens policiais diuturnamente, um tratamento igualmente prestado pelas emissoras que têm na sua programação os programas policiais, criminalizando pobres e estigmatizando bairros.

If this scenario of horror wasn't enough, youngsters now have to carry the burden of responsibility in regards to the growth of violence in Brazil, which is a process of criminalizing youth, interconnected to the rise of youth imprisonment and the battle of conservative sectors towards the reduction of the age of majority. Or they even have to suffer the daily truculence of police approach, which is equally provided by TV networks with their police programs, criminalizing the poor and stigmatizing neighborhoods.

Banda de percussão toca na concentração da caminhada. Foto publicada no Facebook pelo perfil do coletivo Crítica Radical.

Percussion band of Project Luthieria plays before the rally. Photo published on Facebook by Crítica Radical collective.

One of the young participants, Icaro Martins, followed the rally closely with a photo camera. He created a photo album on Facebook to spread the word about the event.

Citizens carry a banner that reads, “Youth who dare to fight, come rally with us – Youth have the right to live”. Photo published by Icaro Martins on Facebook.

Isabel Forte expressed her support [pt] to the rally on Facebook:

Esse é o Bom Jardim que vale a pena!!! E estas pessoas que se importam com o bem estar coletivo são mais que valiosas!!! Força, pessoas do bem!!!

This is the Bom Jardim I find worthwhile!!! People who care about the well being of others are very valuable!!! May you have the force, people of good!!!

Processions for peace

On 16 March, 2013, children and adolescents of the project Luthieria Cultural also took part in a procession for peace [pt] in Parque São Vicente, an area of the Canindezinho neighborhood. Luthieria is an “artistic, playful and educational initiative” with the intent to “reduce the situations of violence in the neighborhood” through percussive music and formation processes.

Pintura de muro durante cortejo: "Vamos unir nossas mãos pela paz". Foto publicada no blog Luthieria Cultural.

Girl paints a wall during the procession: “Let's get our hands together for peace”. Photo published by project Luthieria Cultural.

Participantes do projeto tocam percussão no Parque São Vicente, no bairro Canindezinho. Foto publicada no blog Luthieria Cultural.

Project members play percussion in Parque São Vicente, in the Canindezinho neighborhood. Photo published by project Luthieria Cultural.

Seeking to address the situation of violence among youth, several projects are currently taking place in the Greater Bom Jardim area. Jair Soares, coordinator of project Luthieria [pt], believes cultural actions feature as an important path:

Nosso foco maior foi dizer que as ações culturais do bairro constituem-se como potencialidades frente as situações de desigualdade e violência enfrentadas nas periferias de Fortaleza.

Our greatest focus was to state that cultural actions in the neighborhood constitute potentialities in the face of situations of inequality and violence, which occur in the periphery of Fortaleza.

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