Several people injured in eviction of tent community at site of proposed construction project in World Cup host city Recife
Amnesty International and other human rights groups have condemned police in the World Cup host city Recife for using excessive force to evict protesters from a proposed construction project.
Several people were injured by rubber bullets and teargas canisters in Tuesday’s dawn attack by police on a tent community occupying a historic wharf known as Cais José Estelita.
The protesters have been camping at the site for almost a month to block a controversial development project known as Novo Recife.
Thousands of supporters have visited and local artists and musicians have staged workshops and concerts in a show of opposition to the plan to build skyscrapers in an area of important local heritage.
With the #OcupeEstelita movement also gaining traction on social networks, the city government had begun negotiating with the protesters.
But in the early hours on Wednesday, protesters say, they were woken by police and told they had to pack their belongings and leave.
Those who failed to move in time were driven off the site by mounted police and riot police using pepper spray.
Further clashes occurred later in the day, when supporters arrived to back the protesters. The authorities reported three arrests and three injuries, but participants said many others were hurt. Video posted online shows the welts and cuts left by rubber bullets and truncheons.
Ivan Moraes Filho, who works for a local human rights organisation, said he was shot in the head by a rubber bullet.
«I was tweeting on the sidewalk when they surrounded me. I asked where was a safe place and then tried to walk away. They shot me three times – once on the head and twice on the right arm,» he said. «The police didn’t attempt to mediate. They were just shooting and spraying randomly».
Amnesty said that the police used excessive force and violated an agreement for the camp to have at least 48 hours notice before eviction. The group also called for «the immediate investigation of the abuses committed by the military police and a resumption of the negotiation with the participants of the occupation».
The federal prosecutor in Pernambuco also repudiated the repossession, saying the warrant was served arbitrarily and the tactics were like those used against criminals. A public security spokesman said the police actions were legitimate and backed by a court order.
Recife is the host of five World Cup matches, including the upcoming games Italy v Costa Rica, Croatia v Mexico and USA v Germany. Although the clashes at Cais José Estelita are not related to anti-Fifa demonstrations during the tournament, protesters say the underlying themes are the same.
«This says a lot about how Brazil is governed,» said Lucas Alves of Direitos Urbanos civic forum. «Fifa promotes a city management style that is violent and undemocratic. Many people were evicted and given little compensation for roads and other World Cup projects. Similarly, the Novo Recife project is a way to privatise the city and steal our heritage. We’re fighting that.»
The protesters are now camping outside the site and say they will continue to oppose the project in the courts and on the streets.