AFRICANGLOBE – OK Brazil, so what’s next? There’s racism on the beaches,racism on the job, racism in the hospitals, racism in the schools and in the society overall. Now there’s another trend that’s getting to be a regular thing: racism in the shopping malls? Well, in reality, this isn’t new and not surprising as people have spoken of harassment in shopping malls of Brazil for years and it recent news over the past few months have proven that this type of harassment hasn’t gone anywhere.
But, in this case, playing the devil’s advocate, why choose the mall to organize a get together of thousands of people? I mean, the average mall can get overcrowded during just the Christmas season. On the other hand, if this was a political statement then perhaps this was exactly the point. Although middle class whites are again trying to justify their hysterical attitudes about the presence of the “other”, the Brazilian media has been using the “A” word quite a bit in describing this practice of authorities choosing who is “acceptable” to enter the mall and who isn’t. And this “A” word is generally associated with the legalized segregation practiced in South Africa until the 90s. But, as we have seen, Brazil practices its own style very well also!
On Saturday, six São Paulo shopping malls managed with the support of the courts to block their automatic door so that police and private security guards could identify who they wanted to allow to enter. The target of discrimination: Low-income Black youths. This is the profile of who is jeopardizing several shopping centers in the state with the so-called rolezinhos, and huge get-togethers of young people, convened by social networks that, even without the intention of offending, annoy customers and store employees.
It’s not the first time that malls have strengthened security and identify those who don’t fit the profile of the average consumer, but the injunction (interim decision) and of the judge forbade and warned of a fine of R$10,000 (US$4,242) for whoever participated in this type of demonstration planned yesterday in four shopping centers in the state. At the JK Iguatemi mall, located on the coveted Brigadeiro Faria Lima Avenue, the security guards came to stop the entrance of employees, young people who didn’t have the face of buyers of one of the most expensive malls in the city.
The convening of the rolezinha, with 2,500 people confirmed on Facebook, was put down before it even started – the photo of the injunction pasted at the entrance of the mall spread by social networking before the event, but there was confrontation between youths and police in Metrô Itaquera shopping center, where the first episode was recorded on December 7, with about 6,000 participants. The police, who estimated that Saturday 1,000 teenagers gathered about, acted violently to disperse the crowd. Customers of the establishment filled out two police reports for theft and riot. Three teens were arrested, but two of them have already been released, police said.Nothing was found on the two young men, 15 and 19. A 16-year old was arrested, according to PM with a stolen cell phone in his pocket. He is suspected of being one of 11 people who assaulted two brothers with punches and kicks. The group allegedly stole cell phones, shoes and hats of the victims outside the mall. The apprehended minor was to be sent to the Vara da Infância e Juventude (Child and Youth Detention).
The law is clear. In January 1989, still in the government of former President José Sarney, was enacted Law 7.716, which defines the crimes of prejudice based on race or color. The fifth article is clear and defines crime as “refusing or hindering access to premises, refusing to serve, tend to or receive a customer or buyer.” That’s exactly what happened at the JK Iguatemi shopping mall when the mall security guards did a screening to define who could go and who should stay out – in the second group would be those who had the appearance of young people from the periphery, ie, pardos(browns) or negros. Penalties range from one to three years. In Itaquera in the east zone, young people were assaulted with rubber bullets and batons; a crackdown on “rolezinhos” explains how far Brazil still has to advance in the field of equality.
Aware that they could not discriminate against customers so explicitly – because law 7.716 is clear and has severe penalties – the owners of the mall were only able to screen because they got a court injunction. That is, the prejudice was backed by the courts. It was feared that young people from the periphery organize in the JK Iguatemi, the Mecca of luxury in São Paulo, a “rolezinho” – a manifestation which states the identity of these young people and tries to show society that they are not invisible or second-class citizens. However, with the injunction, the court contributed to what was erected in São Paulo, the wall of prejudice.
The planned get-togethers of these young people, viewed with suspicion by upper-middle class White families who prefer to spend the afternoon in these establishments shielded by security to leisure in the street, marked Christmas in São Paulo. The rolê on December 15 at the Guarulhos shopping mall ended with 23 prisoners who were released shortly afterwards. They were falsely accused of carrying drugs or theft. There were other notices like that of January 4 at the Metrô Tucuruvi mall, in the north zone, where the participation of about 400 students, according to PM , led stores to close their doors three hours earlier, even without a sign of an uproar.
The phenomenon of rolezinhos, with characteristics similar to so-called flash mobs(spontaneous gatherings of people convened by social networks in a given space for the same purpose) has, like so many others on the agenda of the country, divided Brazilian society. Some people associate the mall injunctions to White apartheid. These are the ones those who argue that these teenagers from the periphery, mostly Black with a minimum salary income range of about R$724 (US$307), are putting the focus on inequality between classes, on oppression, bothering richer customers looking towards the malls for safe consumption far from the reality of those from the slums. On the other side of this debate are those who call them vandals, supporters of private space, threatened by a movement without slogans and without clear objectives that they don’t understand and who believe that all this energy and capacity to bring people together could be invested in other areas: from attending more articulate protests like those last June to looking for jobs.
Blogger Eduardo Guimarães, a Brasil 247 columnist, states that a constitutional right of young people of the new middle class was violated. And sociologist Ruda Ricci compares “rolezinho” to the “occupy” movement – the difference is that, this time, it is exercised by citizens from the perifery.
Just as serious as what happened in JK Iguatemi was the outcome of the “rolezinho” in the Itaquera mall, on the east side of São Paulo. There, young people were beaten with batons and rubber bullets by police without there having been any record of violence. Stating the basic: all American citizens, regardless of color or appearance, are entitled to attend the same establishments.
“I was afraid. I’ve been in other rolês, but this time the PM (Military Police) was beating up on a little girl,” said a 14 year old. In a statement, the police defended their methods. “At the bus terminal, due to the commotion, the use of riot control techniques with the use of elastomeric ammo (commonly known as “rubber bullet”) was necessary and stun grenades,” said the corporation.
On Saturday, the 18th, there will be a new “rolezinho” in the Itaquera mall. In JK, the injunction also prevents the entry of any unaccompanied minor – unless you convince the security guards that there aren’t any young people from the periphery. Ie: the courts enshrined Brazilian apartheid; which also proves the delay of the country in promoting equality. On June 11, 1963, when Blacks were barred from attending the same shops as Whites in the United States, then President John Kennedy made one of his most important speeches.
The rolezinhos, meetings marked through social networks by young people from the periphery in shopping centers, began late last year. The first was organized by funk singers in response to approval by the City Council of a bill banning dances of the musical style in the streets of the state capital. The proposal was vetoed by Mayor Fernando Haddad in early 2014. The rolezinhos continued to be organized however. Police have repressed the acts.