La luta continua, hasta siempre…
The judge says that this movement doesn’t exist but they are here now, and the fourth General Assembly of Occupy Sao Paulo is unfolding under the Tea Bridge (the viaduto de cha”), within sight of City Hall. There are about a hundred people milling about and a circle, hand signals, a communication station, a projector showing the relevant hashtags on the underside of the bridge (#Acampasampa, #democraciadireta, #occupysaopaulo), rice and vegetables being cooked over a low fire, a water station, a bucket of umbrellas, large white tarps laid out with people’s possessions on them. It’s cold – 59 degrees F and falling. A few things are conspicuously absent today: no tents, no shelter of any kind; and no signs.
Yesterday, the police had removed the signs from the supporting stone legs of the bridge that make massive walls for this occupied chamber. The occupiers built bamboo tripods to accommodate the request and attached the signs to them. Last night, they were also laid out on the ground facing out from the encampment. But early this morning the police came and took down all the signs (video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAsxOMUSDHE), claiming that the protestors were in violation of the Clean Cities law, a law the forbids commercial advertisers from littering this megalopolis of 20 million with billboards. No more words here.
Over the weekend, the assembly applied for an injunction to stop the police from disrupting the encampment. Today, the judge’s response was simple: yes, political action by political movements is allowed, but there is no movement here. I don’t see it. At the communication table, a group is working to collate a set of pictures and newspaper clippings to accompany the appeal to be filed tomorrow and subsequent applications, which are pending. On the phone, one of the group’s lawyers says to me, “they are nearly invisible under the bridge there. If the police get violent, there is no one to see. Maybe they should move.” The assembly is discussing this now.
On the periphery of the circle, the theme today: INTEGRATION. The people who lived under this bridge before have started sleeping next to the students and the organizers. It’s really hard. One of the first things that people tell you is that there were robberies. Things disappearing in the night. And the necessity of a formation of a security team. When I was here last night, a girl told me that the people who stole during the first night have been integrated into the security committee.
Here’s what I see: the manifestation is here, it is real. It is supported by political strategists (manifestacao.org) and lawyers (instituto praxis de direitos humanos). It is day four and people have started to bring medicines, and vinegar to neutralize the teargas that is a possible future. There is no medical station yet (the vinegar is directed to the kitchen area – a detour). No legal observers. The encampment is in its infancy, but it is growing. Every night, there is a count of how many people plan to spend the night here under the bridge. The first night, 27. Every day, it grows. Tonight, there will be 60 bodies laid here side by side.