On March 31st, in Brazil, there were nationwide protests against the proposed federal pension reform. These demonstrations were just the latest in a recent history of civil unrest in the country.
Protests and demonstrations are no strangers to Brazilian society. However, since 2013, and initially boosted by the increase in public transport fares, demonstrations regarding a number of different issues have become commonplace in Brazil. Protests played a significant role in President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, and are an instrument for social movements both left and right.
Issues ranging from abortion laws to calls for a military intervention in the country, protests in Brazil have varied in size, media coverage, and violence. Demonstrations in opposition to the former government attracted millions nationwide, with massive media coverage and yet, very few reported cases of scuffles and confrontations.
More recent protests, especially regarding intended reforms and constitution amendments have attracted large crowds. Despite the fact that media coverage has been less intense, clashes, and confrontations with the police have been more frequent.
Although there is no way to determine which protests will escalate into violence and which will not, there are some signs that could help navigate demonstration:
• Protests taking place on weekends are less likely to turn confrontational than the ones during week days and rush hours since the number of people affected by the disruptions tends to be smaller.
• The protest venue also matters. If a protest blocks any major avenue or road, it is more likely to be approached by authorities and possibly repressed. Some traditional protest sites, such as Paulista Avenue in São Paulo are closed to car traffic on Sundays, making any clash much less likely on that specific day and place.
The most common problem for those caught up in a protest is a traffic disruption, it is not advisable to attend any demonstration or political act when in doubt of its risk level.
Regarding what is expected in Brazil in relation to civil unrest, more protests could be on the horizon. Political turmoil is as intense as ever, as President Michel Temer is as unpopular as his predecessor was. Corruption charges and investigations are still spreading to the highest levels of administration, and civil and labor rights are at stake on the most recent reforms. The diverse nature of the agendas and social movements behind recent protests makes it almost impossible to think of a near future without demonstrations every other day. Even when a group is not active or simply achieved its goal, there will be hundreds of others to take its place on the streets.