Next in our protest recordings series, a poetic filmmaker walks through a burning São Paulo
My name is Pedro Bayeux, a journalist and filmmaker living in São Paulo since I was 3 days old (I am 33 now).
When you wake up and see the headline of the biggest newspaper from São Paulo announcing that the police needs to be tougher with “vandalism” - and the editorial in the same newspaper calls for urgent use of force “to put an end to it”, you feel a need to go to the streets and see through your own camera what's really happening. To be honest, I was in doubt if I should take my equipment just to make a documentary about the situation or to use it as a weapon against police violence.
I live one block away from Paulista Avenue, the cliché of the “economic heart of the country”. The last protest ended almost in front of my door, with rumours of “chaos”. So, on Thursday night, one hour after the beginning of the fourth act against the bus fare, I took my way downtown, the meeting point of the manifestation. The latest news about the scenario was surreal: police was arresting people and journalists carrying vinegar. Sounded more like a script from “Monty Python” that started in the city; or Terry Gilliam's “Brazil, the movie”, who knows.
On every street corner, bars were full of curious people watching TVs, the noise from the helicopters was the loud soundtrack and, when I was almost there, the first tear gas bombs were the hosts. After that, the night became the simulacrum of a game. My avatar's mission: to shoot videos and think of a plan for how to get home, while trying to understand what was going on. All the streets were closed. It was a smog labyrinth. I tried to turn left, to Augusta Street, a cultural/bohemian street: barricades of fire spread while bombs were coming from both sides. People running. Guy Fawkes masks. Drivers frightened inside cars. Rubber bullets being shot with no discernment. It was like Oxford Street being attacked by Military Police under acid effects, led by Dr. Strangelove. A photographer was blinded with a shot that night. That was a turning point day.
The feedback was ironic: with several journalists and non-activists injured, mass media started changing their speeches. The complexity showed, in a Brazilian context, what Luther Blisset called Psychic War. Political and police abuse became more popular than Neymar. Four days later, more than 100,000 people were marching all over the city. A mix of desires this time and more conflict, now in front of the government palace. Fire, teargas, flowers, Brazilian flags. It could be the plot of “The Warriors”: “in a future, dystopian São Paulo, turf gangs and cops rule the streets”.
Protests spread throughout the country, not only against the bus fare, but against FIFA, corruption, property speculation, for better education, health, transport, from focused to generic claims. Left and right-wings, “no-wings”, students, anarco's, bizarre Nazi’s, posh people, handlers, social movements, families, lions, hyenas, clowns - they took over the streets. A circus, a carnival of dissatisfaction. Not only against the government, as some want to stigmatize, but against an entire reasoning. The conservatives still try to manipulate and a kind of pos-media appears to be an option. The middle class felt the police abuse that poor people have been feeling for a long time here. Hard to understand the anthropology behind, but with one conclusion: after these days, everyone dropped their masks.
See more of Pedro's work at pedrobayeux.com.