Wed | Jun 7, 2023

‘Mega-protest’ fizzles amid authorities’ concern

Published:Friday | January 13, 2023 | 12:45 AM

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP):

Skittish Brazilian authorities on Wednesday spared no effort to boost security in the face of a social media flyer promoting a “mega-protest to retake power” in two dozen cities. Whether because of preventative measures adopted or not, the supposed uprising was a dud.

Fewer than 10 protesters showed up along Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach; there were more journalists in attendance, plus 29 police vehicles. On Brasilia’s esplanade surrounded by federal government buildings, authorities had designated an area for protest and stationed police and national guard troops. Just one couple showed, dressed in the same Brazil soccer jerseys that thousands of rioters wore four days earlier.

“We were surprised to be the only ones here today,” said Eunice Carvalho, a 58-year-old housewife joined by her husband. “People got scared after the imprisonments, which were excessive.”

Speaking to journalists in Brasilia earlier, the federal appointee who has assumed control of the capital’s security said police were shutting down the main avenue to traffic, limiting pedestrian access with barricades and blocking all access to the square that was the site of Sunday’s mayhem.

“The right to protest freely will always be respected and cannot be confused with terrorism,” said the official, Ricarado Cappelli.

Citing the call to protest, a Supreme Court justice ordered local authorities in cities across Brazil to prevent protesters from blocking roads or occupying public spaces and buildings. Justice Alexandre de Moraes also ordered arrests and fines for people and companies who participate or help with logistics and funding.

The all-hands response — and the subsequent tranquility — underscored just how jumpy authorities remain after supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro rampaged through Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace on Sunday, laying ruin to the government’s three most important buildings. Officials arrested or detained some 1,500 people by the following morning, hundreds of whom were sent to prison.