current affairs

The truth behind the Brazilian protests: Peaceful or not?

Brazil has recently acquired a recurring spot on media across the world. The protests, which initially started as non-violent demonstrations, have quickly escalated and taken over the country.

Brazil has recently acquired a recurring spot on media across the world. The protests, which initially started as non-violent demonstrations, have quickly escalated and taken over the country. A non-violent protest sounds like a classic oxymoron, however, looking back in history at protests like the African-American Civil Rights movement and the Indian nationalist movement, a peaceful protest is most definitely attainable.

What it is all about?

As a Brazilian, I often get asked what I think about the protests. First of all, I like to ensure that whoever I am speaking to knows what the protests are all about. I don’t mean to act patronizing, but the international media occasionally distorts the reality. I still can’t believe some people think all the protests are solely about the 20 centavos (7 pence) bus fare increase. The bus fare increase is what drove people to “rebel”. Brazil has a history of a corrupted government where healthcare and education always comes second in the government’s priorities list.

A clear display of this tragic reality is the money Brazil is spending to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Don’t get me wrong, we Brazilians are extremely proud of our football team and sports but when $30 billion are being spent to build stadiums and prepare the country for unnecessary events, the nation had to speak up against it.

A tragic reality

For an average person, living in Brazil can be quite challenging. The constant violence, inequality, lack of decent health care and a proper education system means constant struggle. The recent protests represent Brazilians saying, “The people have woken up!”

Enough to the corruption, enough to being taken advantage of and showing the government and the world that as a nation that we stand together for a better country.

The initial peaceful protests attracted a lot of police attention resulting in random acts of violence from vandals that were only in the protest to cause social disruption and violence, and from the police itself.

The vandalism from a few gained more attention than the great majority that was non-violently trying to get their message across. No society, revolution or protest can be 100% peaceful and there always are some members of society or the government that resort to violence. Nevertheless, a few revolutions in our past were successful in being mostly non-violent.

Looking at the past

During the mid-fifties and sixties, the African American Civil Rights movement emerged with the goal of ending racial inequality. The movement was successful in bringing legislative change ending the separation between races in basic everyday life. Martin Luther King Jr. led the movement and became a national icon in the history of American progressivism. It was tactics of nonviolent resistance, such as bus boycotts, freedom rides and demonstration that made this milestone possible. 

Another successful non-violent protest was the Indian independence movement, where India became independent against British imperial rule. Much like the American Civil Rights movement, the Indian independence also had a face that led the revolution and was eternalized for achievements. Mahatma Gandhi was the preeminent leader during India’s journey for independence. Seeking a non-violent revolution, Gandhi advocated the practice of “absence of the desire to kill and harm.”

His methods consisted of standing behind one’s ideals but without hatred. Refusing to work for British employers, unarmed demonstrations, not paying taxes were a few of the tactics used to reach independence from Britain in 1947.

Promising future

The protests might have been successful in lowering the bus fare but Brazil still has a long way to go to end the perpetual corruption. Perhaps, what Brazil needs during this time of struggle is someone to lead this revolution and provide inspiration, strength and direction.

Slowly but thoroughly, Brazil has been showing the world and its government that something has to be changed. What one can only hope is that fairness is found through peace. After all, you can’t beat tyranny with violence.

What do you think of the protests in Brazil? Are they peaceful? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.