For the original in Portuguese on Pela Moradia click here.
It was yet another mobilization that secured at least temporary victory and relief for the families of the Quilombo das Guerreiras (Women Warriors’ Quilombo) Occupation. Residents, adults, children, senior citizens, and supporters alike were all present in Rio de Janeiro’s Court of Justice on September 18 for the hearing that could have ended in their immediate eviction. But the grassroots organization maintained during the nearly seven years of Quilombo das Guerreiras’ existence secured Judge Maria Lucia Obino Niederauer’s decision to dismiss the case and suspend the possibility of repossession for at least 120 days (four months). During this time, alternatives to solve families’ housing problem will be analyzed.
According to reports from residents and supporters of the meeting, the judge was surprised with the material prepared by the families and lawyers of their team, made up of the Mariana Criola Popular Advisory Centre and the Public Defenders’ Office of Rio de Janeiro. Among the documents submitted were proofs of the occupation’s duration, the performance of the Guerreiras Occupation Association of Affordable Housing (AHPOG), the achievements of the collective organization for self-management staunchly maintained by families during this time, among other materials. The Rio de Janeiro Docks Company’s contempt for the property was also recorded. In addition to having left it abandoned for about 20 years before families decided to conquer the right to housing with their own collective organization, the Docks Company did not attend the hearings scheduled to direct an old repossession process driven by the company—further evidence of its lack of commitment to the court process. It is therefore clear that the Dock’s current interest in the property is driven solely by financial interest, maintained on the basis of speculation with public land.
According to the Public Defender’s Office, more than 100 families are currently living on the land, among which are the families of the Quilombo das Guerreiras Occupation. The occupation is maintained through a self-management system in which there are no leaders and instead all families are responsible, through periodic meetings, to define their political direction. They also take care of all the cleaning, maintenance, and security needs of the building—responsibilities that the company that “owned” the building did not meet over the past two decades. In addition, various activities have been developed within the occupation during their seven years of existence. Residents and supporters have been and are currently involved in activities such as tutoring children and teens, studying for public entrance exams, youth and adult education and literacy, capoeira, STD and AIDS workshops, agro-ecological urban gardening (which has been destroyed by Porto Maravilha construction works), tours, film screenings, fairs, audiovisual production workshops, among others. All this happens in the areas maintained by families, including a library, meeting room, party room, collective kitchen, and space designated for production activities and income generation.
The judge acknowledged that in the face of such great organization, it was not possible to rule in favor of the repossession without considering other alternatives to guarantee housing for families. In the decision, she also stated that representatives of the Urban Development Company for the Port Region of Rio (CDURP) must “commit to provide assistance and interact to find a housing solution for all occupants of the property.” It is impossible not to recall that this same CDURP sat next to businessman Donald Trump Jr., celebrating the launch of the “Trump Towers Rio de Janeiro,” as can be seen in pictures and articles from the December 2012 issues of IG, Portal Fator Brasil, and even Rio de Janeiro’s City Hall. It was CDURP also that stated that, on September 11 of this year, the buildings in Avenida Francisco Bicalho would be the first to be evicted to make way for the millionaire venture—as shown here. It is therefore necessary that we stay aware of the steps taken by all in the coming months, as nothing guarantees that a viable, dignified, and collective alternative will in fact be achieved for these families before an eventual repossession.
In any case, the decision was celebrated as a great victory for these warrior families. Soon after the hearing, some of them even went to give their support to public education professionals, teachers in the state of Rio de Janeiro who are on strike and camped in front of the State Legislative Assembly. In the end, like all struggles, the battle for quality public education and decent housing are bound and can only gain by coming together. The trenches dug by popular organization need to be maintained and expanded, and all support is essential.