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Favela Candidates Run for Office, Among ‘City Council Members We Want’ [VIDEO]

Event discussion. Photo by Mídia Ninja.

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On Saturday, September 17, the campaign Vereadores Que Queremos, or City Council Members We Want, hosted an evening of interviews, debate, and roundtable discussion with 18 candidates running for City Council in the Rio de Janeiro municipal elections on October 2. The gathering took place at Casa Coletiva, a networking center for cultural movements, alternative media production, and social activism in Santa Teresa in central Rio.

Left to right: David Michael Miranda, Romário Galvão, Marielle Franco and Célio Gari, Photo credit Nour El-Youssef

With the elections fast approaching, the non-profit organization Rede Livre (Free Network) recently launched the Vereadores Que Queremos campaign (#VereadoresQueQueremos) to provide visibility and media resources on select candidates running for city council in various municipalities throughout Brazil. The platform collaborates with candidates from various political parties who are committed to collective, democratic and grassroots processes. The hope is to encourage active citizenship and achieve an honest, socially and ethically committed assembly of council members that reflects the cultural diversity and plurality of Brazilian society. The central question of the debate at Saturday’s event was, “how can we make our city more democratic?”

The 18 candidates who participated in Saturday’s event came from all walks of life, discussing urgent issues such as labor rights, violence against women, homophobia and transphobia, educational stipends and affirmative action, religious freedom, police brutality, freedom of the press, and the lack of racial diversity in public office, among other issues.

Various other organizations have been involved in the campaign and joined forces on Saturday to make the event possible. Casa Coletiva provided the venue, and united the efforts of Rede Fora do Eixo, Mídia Ninja and Pós TV. These groups worked collectively to broadcast the event live on Facebook. Viewers who were unable to attend the event in person submitted questions to candidates via the Facebook page in real time.

Ana Pessoa, from Mídia Ninja and resident of the Casa Coletiva, describes the emergence of the Vereadores Que Queremos campaign: “[The project] was born of a laboratory that we did back in 2012 in São Paulo called The City We Want. This was a series of debates with candidates live streamed by Pós TV around the clock… The more you occupy politics, the more you are able to hack and dispute the system from within.”

Claudete da Costa at Casa Coletiva, photo credit Mídia Ninja

Representing an important shift given their historically low levels of representation, several favela-based candidates participated in Saturday’s event. As a child living in Rio de Janeiro, Claudete da Costa experienced homelessness until her family finally settled in City of God when she was 16 years of age. Claudete works for the National Movement for Collectors of Recyclable Materials. For the upcoming elections in October she is running with the party REDE Sustentabilidade (Sustainability Network), and is determined to strengthen voices of waste pickers, Rio’s primary collectors of recyclable materials, known as catadores, in local government. Her platform is to ensure that existing public policy and laws safeguarding the rights of catadores are put in practice. On Saturday, Claudete affirmed: “One of my motivations for being involved in politics is the question of the black community–we need to have a space of empowerment! I want to be part of a legacy of safeguarding human rights, which requires the involvement of black people in politics!”

Allan Jorge at Casa Coletiva, photo credit Mídia Ninja

Allan Jorge was born and raised in Rocinha and continues to live and work there today. He is one of the founders of the first newspaper in Rocinha, and also co-founded Rádio Rocinha. Currently, he works as a radio host for the Rocinha community station Rádio Brisa. He is representing PCdoB (Communist Party of Brazil) in his campaign for City Council: “We have more than 300,000 residents in Rocinha. We want a local government that addresses the needs of favelas.”

Marielle Franco is originally from Complexo do Maré. She is with the PSOL (Socalism and Freedom Party) and her campaign focuses on the rights of favela residents and gender equality for black women. She studied sociology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC), and obtained her Masters in Public Administration at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), for which she wrote her dissertation entitled “UPP: The Reduction of Favelas in Three Letters.” She has worked for various civil society organizations, including the Brazil Foundation and CEASM (Maré Center for Solidarity Studies and Action). Currently, she is the coordinator of the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship in the Rio de Janeiro State Legislative Assembly (Alerj).

In 2002, Célio Garis began working for Comlurb (Municipal Utility for Urban Cleaning), and helped organize a workers’ strike during carnival in 2014 and 2015, in support of the rights of garis or street-sweepers. Célio’s campaign calls for the active participation of workers in local government. On Saturday Célio explained “the gari is an agent of environmental health. We provide a healthy city. We want to be a part of the political process, to dispute institutions and address the crisis of representation.” He is running with the REDE Sustentabilidade party.

David Michael Miranda grew up in the Jacarezinho favela and today works as an international journalist. He has been involved in several social causes, including the campaign Rio Without Homophobia. With the Juntos! collective he helped launch the Casa da Juventude project dedicated to activism, free press and cultural production. Along with his partner Glenn Greenwald, David has been recognized worldwide for his activism in defense of Internet freedom: “I don’t want anyone to lose hope in the political process, especially in the current moment this country is facing. They sold the idea that politics is not to be discussed. Let’s change this view. We have to establish a progressive front in the city,” David concluded on Saturday. David will be running with the PSOL party.

The full streaming of debates and discussion can be viewed on the event’s Facebook page.