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Vila Autódromo ‘Occupies’ the Olympic Park with Celebration and Protest

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Last Saturday, August 13, Vila Autódromo hosted the Vila Autódromo Ocupa Olimpíada (Vila Autódromo Occupies the Olympics) event “to reaffirm its territory, its existence, its resistance and its re-existence.” More than 100 residents and supporters gathered there to share information and enjoy a celebration of solidarity and resistance that started in the afternoon and went well into the night.

The event was an expression of the longstanding history and struggle faced by the community in the years leading up to the 2016 Games. The community wrote on the Facebook event page:

“The Exclusion Games have arrived and the ‘Olympic party’ is happening on all sides–but we weren’t invited!

We paid for the Olympic Games with the violent eviction of most of our community’s residents. For years we were subjected to all kinds of pressure and threats from the City, that tried every way it could to finish with Vila Autódromo.

We resisted. And we’re the ones who will tell this story.”

Protestors prepare to mobilize

Located just a five minute walk away from the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca in Rio’s West Zone, the community offered an alternative to the polished displays of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Prominently on display were the Evictions Museum installations, which offered community-designed depictions of the forced evictions that have reduced a community of almost 700 families down to now just 20.

Residents were in the streets too, offering their accounts of how the Olympics affected their lives, as well as how they plan on moving forward now that they have finally moved into their on-location, government-built housing. Police and Olympic officials made their presence felt, driving through the community sporadically, requiring attendees to remove the event decorations in the streets to allow them to pass. Despite this, however, the event maintained a positive atmosphere, complete with freshly prepared food, drinks and music.

Later in the evening, as live performers prepared to play for the event, some of the group went to the Olympic Park to carry out an act of resistance and to raise awareness. Two young girls walked on stilts above the crowd, carrying a sign stating, “You can’t remove memory,” drawing the enthusiastic attention of many Olympic spectators leaving their venues.

"You can't remove memory"

“You can’t remove memory”

Other protesters unfurled banners against the Olympics and the effects of the mega-event. One banner read “It’s the state that’s the terrorist,” which protesters argue is not just regarding the endemic issues of police brutality and intimidation, but also the failure to supply public services. One demonstrator said: “The state itself causes the terror when it doesn’t provide healthcare, education, basic sanitation. These Olympics are an Olympic joke.”

"It's the state that's terrorist." Photo from Os Jogos de Exclusão Facebook page

“It’s the state that’s the terrorist.” Photo from Rio 2016 – Jogos de Exclusão Facebook page

The protestors were able to continue without police interference, repeating chants and giving out informational flyers to passersby as events ended and spectators began to clear out. Some of those passing by also offered support, shouting the now common cry against the interim president, “Temer Out!” After about an hour of protest, the demonstrators returned to Vila Autódromo to enjoy the music and atmosphere at the community’s celebratory event.