As Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva arrived at the Federal Police headquarters to start serving a 12-year sentence in Curitiba, Paraná, around 10:30pm last night (7), the police started a brutal crackdown on a peaceful vigil that was being staged by pro-Lula demonstrators outside the building. While the police cracked down on Lula supporters, anti-Lula protesters staged a demonstration a few feet away and were not attacked by the police, not even when they shot fireworks at the helicopter that was taking the ex-president to the Federal Police headquarters.
After the clash, lieutenant-colonel Mário Henrique do Carmo told journalists Lula supporters were first attacked by Federal Police agents, and not by his riot police. Unlike what federal agents said to justify the crackdown, Carmo said pro-Lula protesters were not trying to break into the Federal Police headquarters.
Tear gas and flash grenades were launched against protesters, who were staging a demonstration since early in the morning, gathering preachers of four different religious faiths, artists, families, teachers, and students, as well as activists from left-wing coalitions Povo Sem Medo and Frente Brasil Popular.
Paramedics had to provide emergency response for at least eight people who were injured during the crackdown, including four children. The police stopped the attack only after women formed a line to block their way.
“We were a group of teachers, we were protesting peacefully with students,” Andreia Gimenez told Brasil de Fato. She was shot in the thigh with a rubber bullet. “This proves we’re living in a coup. What more proof do you need?,” she said.
The Workers’ Party chair in Paraná, Dr. Rosinha, said the first shots were fired by Federal Police agents while pro-Lula leaders were negotiating with police officers to continue to stage their vigil. Before the crackdown, a court had issued an order forbidding demonstrators to gather outside the Federal Police headquarters where Brazil’s former president was going to be held.
“We were negotiating with them when we learned about the court order. We agreed that the two protests, pro- and anti-Lula, should leave simultaneously,” Dr. Rosinha told Brasil de Fato. “We signed the deal, but they didn’t. And then the Federal Police started to shoot. They said we were pushing the gates, but that’s a lie, I was there,” he said.
Judge Ernani Mendes Silva Filho, who issued the court order that made it possible for the police to crack down on protesters, wrote it was clear, based on the news, that there were clashes in different parts – especially outside the headquarters of the Metal Workers’ Union in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, – where people were shot and wounded, journalists were assaulted, and buildings were vandalized, and that should not be allowed in a democratic State.
Edition: Diego Sartorato | Translated by Aline Scátola