Vila Autódromo residents held a unique breakfast on the morning of Wednesday September 24, in an effort to bring attention to ongoing evictions in their neighborhood ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games. A full spread of food, juice and coffee was laid out for residents, passers-by and construction workers.
The event was an attempt to generate more visibility for the resistance in Vila Autódromo, but it was also an opportunity for those outside the community–even construction workers of the Olympic Park–to show their solidarity with residents facing eviction. Many feel that as the event inches closer the government will not honor their land titles, which are valid for 99 years.
The “S.O.S Vila Autódromo” shirts worn by protesters were prepared in response to the continuous and mounting pressure from the municipal government on residents who have resisted thus far. Residents also claim those who have taken resettlement offers have often been misinformed and misled by government officials.
The group achieved two brief live television appearances on TV Record–a victory for the morning’s work.
While food and coffee were served just outside the community entrance, residents stopped traffic chanting: “The people taking to the streets, it’s the city governement’s fault!” They also offered refreshments and snacks to the drivers being delayed by the protest.
The reaction of the vast majority of motorists was uplifting. Many honked and pumped their fists to show their support, or even joined in unison, chanting out their windows. No one seemed to fault the community for trying to make their voices heard. Every time traffic resumed drivers went by slowly so they could read the residents’ protest signs.
Residents spoke of the goals of the event and of their history in the neighborhood. Maria da Penha, a resident of Vila Autódromo for 21 years, told of the time she had just bought her house and how not many cars used to pass by at the time.
Luiz, a prominent member of the Neighborhood Association who is also a physical education teacher and soccer coach, made it clear that the Municipal Housing Secretariat (SMH) workers are respected despite their charge to demolish or make holes through former homes to render them uninhabitable.
“They are just doing their jobs so we have no problem with them, the issue is the municipal government policy itself,” he said. “Everything we are doing today is peaceful.” Luiz also spoke of the influence of real estate speculation on the situation.
A small group of Military Police supervised the demonstration on the sidelines. Some residents made signs indicting the role of powerful developers in influencing local public policy: the insidious force that continues to subvert Rio de Janeiro’s democratic process lies at this intersection of Brazil’s largest private consortiums and its government.