Black Bloc and Teachers: Education Crisis Explodes on Rio’s Streets


10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>In the past few weeks, public outrage over an education crisis has inspired mass protests in Rio de Janeiro. These echo the massive uprising that took place in the streets of Brazil in June, when a series of protests erupted around inefficiencies and cost hikes in the public transportation sector. 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Now, once again struggles for social rights are driving demonstrations on the streets of the future host city of the World Cup and Olympic Games. In the past months dormant frustrations have broken to the surface of public life. In particular, it has become evident that huge swaths of the Brazilian public reject the image makeover of Rio, the inequitable impact of government megaprojects, and the neglect of other social priorities by the Worker’s Party led by President Dilma Rousseff’s government at the federal level, by Governor Sergio Cabral of the PMDB party in the state of Rio de Janeiro, and by Mayor Eduardo Paes (also of the PMDB) in the municipality of Rio.
line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>is to privatise education and creat an even greater precariousness by proposing the Career, Position, and Salary Plan (PCCR) that only offers security to seven percent of the current teaching staff: those who work for the school system at least 40 hours a week.

PCCR's failure 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>

These teachers have mobilised, and represented by their union, are not just acting in defence of these pedagogical questions, they are on the offensive, demanding deeper changes. They are insisting that their career be valued more highly and demanding that budget cuts stop. But crucially, they refuse to merely discuss "better salaries" or "greater investments in Education". This new movement is visionary; they aim to remodel the whole teaching and learning process. So they rejected the government’s proposal which they considered backward and, at best, superficial. 150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>War-like tactics backfired

This repression came to a climax on October 1, when, according to the left-leaning journal Jornal Brasil de Fato, thousands of marchers stood in front of the City Council to insist that the council not vote on the legislation that would institute the PCCR. The protesters were dispersed by what may only be described as a military attack. On the same day, Mayor Eduardo Paes imposed his own PCCR "solution" which was rammed through the council behind closed doors while right outside the mayor's office bombs, tasers, and columns of tear gas were incessantly shot targeting not just protesters, but any civilians who had the misfortune of being in the vicinity.

But the mayor’s aggressive tactics and Governor Cabral’s belligerent targeting of peaceful social-rights advocates had the opposite effect of what they intended. An already angered population was further inspired and their passions reignited.

On the streets, besides the usual slogans against the governor and the mayor, such as "Resign Cabral!" and "Go with Paes!" (a pun which plays with the Brazilian expression used to say goodbye to someone – "Go in Peace"), the protesters questioned the focus on mega events at the cost of social rights: "I don’t want the World Cup! I want investments in Health and Education!", "I want FIFA standard schools and hospitals", "How many schools would fit in one Maracana stadium?", besides the ever more present "There’s not going to be any World Cup!".

A short chant goes like this: "This was a very funny country/There were no schools, only stadiums/No one could say anything/Because the police would come down on us with a heavy hand." font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
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This new wave of education protests use "Black Bloc" tactics. In Brazil, "Black Blocs" were organised as self-defense units to protect the front-line of protests. But these same protectors have been represented in the media as dangerous vandals, and demonised by the state in order to justify the brutal crackdown of the protests. The mask-wearers were welcomed by the protesters, despite the media portraying them as being dangerous, chaotic and destructive. Indeed, this sense of solidarity amidst the demonstrations, this shared manning of barricades, inspires a common determination to fight against the fear of repression.

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The protests feed into the hopes of many who, despite immense institutional impediments and a government both deaf and dumb to the protest movements, make it possible to continue dreaming of and edifying another Rio and another Brazil.