Solidarity in Brazil
Cecilia Siqueira de Oliveira, a 33-year-old design student living in the teeming Brazilian metropolis of Sao Paulo, had never seen herself as a street protester. Yet she found herself gripped by news this month of the uprising in Turkey. She was especially touched by a photo she’d seen from faraway Istanbul, of a man calmly playing the piano amid a huge throng of agitated demonstrators.
Posting the photo on her Facebook page, she wrote, “Wouldn’t it be good if Brazilians did that?”
A few days later, Brazil was on its feet.
A series of protests were playing out on Paulista Avenue, one block from her two-bedroom apartment. What was originally a movement against high bus fares was morphing into mass demonstrations against ingrained corruption, shoddy public services, high taxes and rising inflation.
Like other Brazilians, Oliveira had been disgusted by recurring political corruption scandals, a lackluster transit system and poor public services. She also thought the current and past governments had exaggerated the improvements in Brazilian lifestyles during a now-ebbing era of high growth. What burned her most, though, were the images of violence she was witnessing on television, with riot police firing rubber bullets and gas canisters at the crowds — a response that brought only more demonstrators out.
Finally, on June 17, she decided to join the hordes that were filling the streets.
“There were all kinds of people — the suits, the elderly, young people, families with children,” Oliveira said. As she marched, she recalled how emotional she felt watching people throwing shredded paper from their windows and turning their lights on and off as a sign of solidarity with the protesters below.
Three days later, more than 1 million Brazilians were on the streets of cities across the country. In the past, she and her friends had commiserated about how the only things that brought Brazilians together were soccer and Carnival. That had clearly changed.
“People realized it was worth going into the streets,” Oliveira said. “It’s incredible that in a country mad about soccer, that will host the World Cup, people are not talking about matches on social media. They are discussing politics and economics.”
Empowerment in Turkey
Serkan Zihli, a 32-year-old public relations consultant for an array of glamorous Istanbul art galleries and fashion designers, had just landed from a Mediterranean vacation when his smartphone lit up. “Get to Gezi Park,” said the text from a friend. “They’re coming.”