Clashes erupted in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, after police moved to evict around 700 squatter families in the east of the city, with Images from the scene showing molotov cocktails thrown at police.
A week ago, the commune – home to some 700 families numbering over 3,000 people – received a notice from the authorities informing them that they were on private property and would have to leave. On Tuesday morning, military police arrived to enforce the court order.
Residents of the squatter camp in the Sao Mateus neighborhood tried to negotiate with authorities at approximately 7.00 am local time, asking officers to delay the eviction until the judge responsible for the suit, Jurandir de Abreu Júnior, could analyze a request by the Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding the case and the suspension of the eviction order.
The police refused and moved in at approximately 8.20 am, where they were met with burning barricades and hundreds of activists. In response, the police used tear gas and pepper spray on the protesters.
“After the officers attempted to negotiate with the families, to no avail, the settlers resisted by harassing the police, hurling stones, bricks and firecrackers and setting three barricades on fire,” read a statement from the police as quoted by O Globo. “A military police officer was lightly wounded by a homemade bomb and two vehicles of the Shock Troop were damaged. The MPs [military police] acted to ensure compliance with the court order.”
The police also arrested Guilherme Boulos, the leader of the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) who participated in the protest, along with another activist José Ferreira Lima. The pair was charged for civil disobedience and incitement of violence.
In a statement posted to the MTST’s official Facebook page, the group described Boulos’ arrest as absurd.
“Comrade Guilherme Boulos, a member of the national coordination of the MTST, who was overseeing the reinstatement of the occupied territory in order to guarantee a favorable outcome for more than 3000 people living on the site, has just been arrested by the military police of São Paulo on the charge of civil disobedience,” the statement read.
“A true absurdity, since Guilherme Boulos has consistently seeking to mediate in the conflict.”
While being detained, Boulos spoke to the press and said that he was being unfairly blamed for the violence.
“I have to wait here [in the police station] until the decision,” O Globo reported him as saying.
“It’s a political imprisonment. They cleared 700 families with violence then say I acted with violence. It’s untrue, they are attributing things to me that did not happen.”
“MTST was there to ensure the rights of evictees.”
The Homeless Workers’ Movement was founded in 1997 as an offshoot of the Landless Workers’ Movement, and like its parent organization aims to “take back” unused land for the poor. The MTST often gets into confrontations with the authorities over their eviction attempts.
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