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Brazilian Police Say These Two Men Had Explosives During an Anti-World Cup Protest. Photos and Videos Tell a Different Story

Lutar não é crime

“Fighting is not a crime”. Image by “If We Do Not Have Rights, There Will Be No World Cup” Collective, used with permission

Brazilians activists are using photos and videos to show that police have allegedly forged evidence to incriminate two protesters who were arrested in São Paulo at the end of an anti-World Cup protest in late June.

According to a police report about the arrest, obtained by Human Rights Watch, officers claimed to have found “a homemade explosive device” in Fabio Hideki Harano’s backpack and a “bottle of yogurt that smelled heavily of gas” on Rafael Marques Lusvarghi on June 23, 2014. They were accused of possessing illegal weapons, resisting arrest, conspiring to commit crimes, inciting crime and disobeying police authority.

The two men have denied the charges. Police have not produced evidence of the alleged explosives.    

In a press statement the day after the arrests, Fernando Grella, the chief of public security for Sao Paulo state, said that the pair were “the first cases of ‘Black Blocs’ caught red-handed encouraging criminal acts,” labeling Harano and Lusvarghi as members of an anarchist group that has been known to vandalize property during protests.

Grella also defended shots with real ammunition fired by a police officer during the arrests to disperse the crowd.

Painting a different picture

However, eyewitness accounts and various videos and photos published online seem to challenge the official narrative.

Student and public servant Fabio Hideki Harano was on his way home when he was arrested inside a subway station by plainclothes agents from DEIC, the police force investigating organised crime. He was searched in front of several people, and he shouted desperately for whoever had cameras to film the arrest in order to show that he was not carrying anything illegal. A video by Karla Oliveira shows the moment of Hideki's arrest and search: 

Another video by The Activists Lawyers Collective, formed by lawyers who are in the streets defending demonstrators, shows police officers making a second search on Fabio, this time outside the subway station, where nothing seems to have been found.

Professor Rafael Lusvarghi's arrest was his second during the anti-World Cup protests in June. This video by Testemunha do Caos (Chaos Witness) shows four officers taking him down. In a detailed post about the protester, one of the site's bloggers reported his own witness account:

Ao final do ato as pessoas foram se dispersando, uns indo pela calçada, outros indo em direção ao metro. Do lado da estação Consolação, atrás de uma banca de jornal, uns policiais do DEIC – GARRA fizeram uma tocaia e foi onde prenderam Lusvarghi. Uma arma de fogo foi disparada pelo menos duas vezes. O manifestante foi jogado no chão, enquanto o CHOQUE fazia uma formação em linha que, no meu entendimento, era para “limpar a rua das pessoas”. Isto posto, o Choque também deu tiros ali, mas não acertou ninguém. Fiquei surpreso que Lusvarghi tinha sido acusado de porte de explosivos. Ele não portava nenhuma mochila, a saia não tinha bolso, então a bomba estava aonde, enfiada no cu?

At the end of the protest, people were dispersing, some walking down the street, others heading towards the tube. Behind a news stand next to Consolação station, a few police officers from the State Department of Criminal Investigations (DEIC) – Armed Group for Repression of Robberies and Burglaries (GARRA) forces ambushed and arrested Lusvarghi. A firearm was shot at least twice. The protester was thrown on the ground, while the riot police lined up to, in my understanding, “clean the street of people.” That said, the riot police also fired shots there, but they did not hit anyone. I was surprised that Lusvarghi had been charged with possession of explosives. He was not carrying any backpack, and was wearing a skirt with no pockets, so where was the bomb, stuck up in his ass?

The Activist Lawyers Collective has curated many photos of Lusvarghi throughout the demonstration to show that he had no bags or pockets:

No entanto, à noite, já no DEIC – delegacia responsável pelo inquérito das manifestações – “surge” um explosivo nos objetos de ambos. A acusação torna-se mais que estúpida, talvez criminosa, isto é, a possível realização de flagrante forjado pela Polícia Civil do Estado de São Paulo.

However, in the same evening, at DEIC – the department responsible for investigating demonstrations – an explosive “appears” among both men's belongings. The charge is more than stupid, perhaps even criminal, i.e. a possible flagrant forgery by the civil police of the state of São Paulo.

The collective also offers a long report about the protest on June 23 in English.

Tear gas and rubber bullets for supporters

On the night of July 1, demonstrators convened in downtown São Paulo to demand the release of the two men. The peaceful protest was met with tear gas and rubber bullets from police. Award-winning writer Ricardo Lisias, one of the speakers at the public meeting there, said on Facebook that he saw a police officer shoving a camera in people's faces to film them:

De repente, um negócio me deixou pasmo: dois policiais sem identificação entraram no meio da manifestação e se colocaram na frente da mesa onde a gente iria falar! Um deles tinha uma câmera (bem obsoleta, parecia câmera de VHS) e ficava filmando o rosto das pessoas.

Repito: dois policiais entraram no meio da manifestação para intimidar o pessoal. Foi a mais ou menos três metros de onde eu estava. Aí um grupo ficou tenso e começou a gritar. Os dois policiais continuaram enfiando a câmera na cara das pessoas em clara atitude de intimidação e na verdade ainda uma outra coisa: para causar um incidente. Bastava que um jovem caísse ali na frente dele e um policial escorregasse para que os cavalos viessem em cima da gente.

Por sorte o ato estava bem organizado e não houve incidente. Dois advogados foram presos (pasmem!!) sem que houvesse qualquer tumulto. Vou repetir o que eu vi: o protesto era pacífico, não havia ninguém com o rosto coberto, não havia nada sendo depredado e a polícia de fato tentava a todo custo causar um incidente.

Suddenly, something left me stunned: two undercover policemen got in the middle of the demonstration and placed themselves in front of the table where we would speak! One of them had a camera (a much obsolete one, it looked like a VHS camera) and was shooting people's faces.

Again, two policemen came in the middle of the demonstration to intimidate people. It was about three metres from where I was. Then a group tensed and started screaming. The two officers continued shoving the camera in people's faces in a clear attitude of intimidation, and actually for another reason: to cause an incident. It only needed a young man to fall there in front of him and a police officer to slip too for the horses to come down on us.

Luckily the act was well organized and there was no incident. Two lawyers were arrested (behold!) although there was no disturbance. I'll repeat what I saw: the protest was peaceful, there was no one with covered face, there was nothing being vandalised and it was the police that actually tried at all costs to cause an incident.

At least six people were detained at the protest, and at least one of these was the arbitrary arrest of Silvia Daskal, a member of the Activist Lawyers Collective, as shown in this video:


She later explained what happened:

A tenente já veio pra cima de mim me enforcando e quase quebrando meu pulso. Quando me levaram para perto da viatura eu vi que o outro detido era nosso companheiro, o advogado Daniel Biral, que estava no camburão sendo agredido por diversos policiais. Ele estava algemado, gritando e se debatendo na tentativa de se defender.

The lieutenant came on me almost choking me and breaking my wrist. When they brought me closer to the car I saw that the other detainee was our colleague, lawyer Daniel Biral, who was being beaten by several police officers in the police van. He was handcuffed, screaming and thrashing in an attempt to defend himself.

Making scapegoats of protesters

The Activists Lawyers Collective has described the arrests of Fabio and Rafael as very timely for the police. DEIC, the police department responsible for investigating “Black Bloc” protesters — who dress in black, cover their faces and committed acts of vandalism during anti-government protests last year — has received criticism for not being able to produce sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution against anyone. The collective accuse police of seeking out scapegoats to save face.

While the mainstream media has given attention only to the police version of the facts, demonstrations continue in São Paulo. Another protest is scheduled for tomorrow, July 10. 

Protesto Grande Quadrilha

“The great quadrille”. Image by “If We Do Not Have Rights, There Will Be No World Cup” Collective, used with permission

The last video was subtitled in English by Lucas Fernandes from the Global Voices subtitling team.

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