“The people finally woke up” … and they won’t be going back to sleep.
This phrase, heard from the four corners of Brazil this Monday, reflected a infectious sentiment felt everywhere. The hours past midnight saw thousands of people still on the streets – and on social networks – sharing emotions, images and memories of a day that has already become history in the country.
Never before has a Monday been so eagerly awaited by so many people. One hundred, two hundred, three hundred-thousand, the exact number does not matter anymore. Brazilians occupied their streets as they haven’t done for a very long time; shouting clearly and loudly what was previously stuck in their throat.
It was not only about the increase in public transport fares. The initial protests in the past two weeks were violently suppressed by the police and the movement has now come to represent something much bigger. Brazilians have left their homes to re-establish that the streets are the most legitimate spaces for democracy.
São Paulo, the biggest city in South America, is known as “the city that never stops” – except in traffic jams. This time the city’s millions of automobiles made room for hundreds of thousands of people. Residents of other big cities, including Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Salvador, Maceio, Belém and Rio Branco, have also joined the protests.
The movement spread nationwide, like ignited gunpowder. But actual gunpowder was hardly seen. What exploded on the asphalt, this time, was optimism, creativity, good humor and the feeling that something must change. Democracy, education, healthcare, an end to corruption, the right to peaceful protest, accessible public transportation – all of this was included in the claims of the Brazilian people.
As an organisation which has the right to peaceful protest embedded in its DNA, Greenpeace supports, applauds and is proud to have taken part in one of the most beautiful moments in the recent history of Brazil. We will keep calling for our city leaders to dutifully consider their citizens. Let the winds of change continue to blow through the country. Each of us, as citizens, need to take ownership of this lesson: policy is also made with our own hands.
And the original reasoning behind the protests, the high cost of public transportation, cannot go unanswered. After decades and decades of encouraging the car industry, it is time to rethink this wasteful transport model and ensure massive investments are made in public urban mobility. The best way to solve this unsustainable gridlock is with an affordable, accessible and efficient public transport system.