Approximately 50 people protested in solidarity with the residents of Maracajás Road this Wednesday, October 4. The families living on Maracajás Road, Galeão, on Ilha do Governador have recently organized against eviction threats that may put them out of their homes in less than two weeks; this was their first act of protest.
For several years now, the Maracajás Road families have been subjected to regular intimidation by the Aeronáutica branch of the Air Force, which has a large base nearby. They are concerned by rumors that their land is currently being eyed by a private hospital for expansion onto the island. While the families have been living on the land for decades, since before the air base was built, the Aeronáutica has claimed ownership of the land. Residents believe this is an attempt to benefit from the real estate speculation occurring in the area.
The newly created Facebook page’s first post on October 3 emphasized that, on the verge of eviction, residents are “without any type of compensation and without any idea of where they’ll go.” The post continued: “We are humiliated and desperate, because they are belittling our history—our lives don’t have value to the interests that are behind this cowardice.”
On Wednesday afternoon, protesters from across Rio de Janeiro congregated on Ilha do Governador to support the families, including residents of Guaratiba and Vila Autódromo who have personally experienced inhumane processes of eviction by the government. Protest signs emphasized the residents’ history in the area, declaring “the houses are ours, 100 years is the right to housing” and “we are not invaders.” One speaker framed the case of Maracajás Road in the context of eviction threats across the city, denouncing the “process of social exclusion, of cleansing and sanitizing the city.”
In contrast to the previous day’s Facebook post in which a resident had written, “we already have no more hope,” Maracajás Road residents left the demonstration optimistic. “It went really well. The message got across. People really liked it because it was peaceful and calm,” reflected event organizer Anderson dos Santos Pereira. In the face of threats of violence, the citizens decided to resist peacefully. They also reported receiving support from the local Military Police unit at the protest.
The protest attracted media attention for blocking the main road leading to and from the island, but O Globo‘s report failed to include community voices or information for readers to gain a better understanding of the issue at hand. The article’s headline even focused on the protest’s effect on traffic, rather than the protesters’ battle against eviction. The Maracajás Road families intend to do interviews with local media in the coming weeks. There will also be another protest on Wednesday, October 11 at 6am. The demonstration will be held on Avenida 20 de Janeiro near the international airport, in an effort to draw global attention to the housing struggle facing them and other residents of Rio.