Fighting is not a crime!

Por equipe do Dicionário de Favelas Marielle Franco

Author: Hugo Fanton

Translated by: Lidiele Nogueira

Review: Marlon Coutinho da Silva and Junia C. S. Mattos Zaidan

Fighting is not a crime! Housing is a right!

Freedom to Preta, Sidney, Ednalva e Angélica!

In the morning of June 24, 2019, the civil police of São Paulo, under the command of the governor João Dória, unfairly arrested four leaders of the homeless movements that operate in downtown São Paulo: Angélica dos Santos Lima, Janice Ferreira Silva (also known as Preta), Ednalva Franco and Sidney Ferreira. They determined 13 other warrants of search and seizure against leaders of the buildings occupied by the movement. After five days, the temporary arrests were converted to pre-trial detention. The arrest of Carmen Silva was also deceed. She is an internationally recognized leader for her work in defense of the right to housing. She was already acquitted in the first and second instances on the same charges.

The case was taken by the Public Prosecution Office of São Paulo which, to benefit the real estate market that wants to expel the poor from downtown, conducted a new groundless and persecutory inquiry against these and 14 other movement leaders. The arrests were maintained by the case’s judge, Erica Soares de Azevedo Mascarenhas, who ordered six other arrests of leaders from the movement as well as precautionary measures against five militants. The allegation is that the movements, which have been fighting for the right to housing for decades, are now considered invaders, accused of collecting rent from families that are occupying abandoned buildings and still expel those who do not want to pay. These statements are all false, slanderous. The unfair arrests were carried out in a context of intensifying the dispute for urban politics in São Paulo and Brazil: on the one hand, Governor Doria and the real estate market seeking to appropriate the space to favor speculation and guarantee the privilege of a few to live in areas with urban infrastructure. On the other hand, housing movements fight for the right to the city, for popular housing in urbanized areas and for the rights of the working class to live in the highly valued regions of the city.

The occupation of empty buildings and lands that do not fulfill the social role of property is the main form of political-social struggle of the movements. Housing is a social human right denied to more than seven million Brazilian families, millions of which live in São Paulo. Under the Brazilian Federal Constitution, housing is a right and property, whether public or private, must fulfill a social role which means that occupying abandoned buildings or land is a way of effecting what is established by the Constitution.

Despite that, the state of São Paulo, through its Civil Police and the Judiciary, conducted an operation by resorting to illegal coercion and false accusations to take the leaders to prison. They were accused of forcing residents to pay fees out of the occupied buildings. According to the Public Ministry , the investigation was initiated after an anonymous report made about a year ago. In the case file, however, it is clear that there is no basis for the arrests. The occupations kept by these leaders carry out periodic maintenance and have infrastructure validated by the authorities, besides having a statute, promoting assemblies and accountability.

The arbitrariness of the Judiciary and the Doria Government has continued over the last two months, with the delay on the part of the Justice to accept the constitution of defense lawyers, making it impossible to access the case file, a clear curtailment of the right to defense. Besides that, the new warrant of arrests were issued by the Public Ministry against popular leaders who didn’t even participate in the daily routine of the occupations. Once again, that shows the main political goal of the governor Doria and the Brazilian Judiciary to attack the organizations of the working class to impose an authoritarian political-economic project to benefit the wealthiest minorities.

It is one more evidence of the rise of fascism in São Paulo and Brazil. The arrest of the homeless leaders is one more chapter of the investment against the working class and its representatives, the same unfair process led to the arbitrary arrest of former President Lula, following a coalition between the Judiciary, the traditional media and the economic power to impose an anti-popular project on the country.

The right to housing has been attacked through the cuts of investment and the dismantling of public policies in Brazil. Added to this are the attacks on popular movements, which have been fighting every day for the right to the city and decent housing. The presence of the poor and the workers at the occupation in downtown São Paulo is an act of constant resistance against the real estate speculation and social segregation. The homeless movement has a historical, democratic and transparent role in more than four decades. In all these years of organization and resistance, it conquered millions of housing for low-income families and it contributed to the formulation of housing and urban policies with its various ways of acting such as street protests, building occupations and abandoned lands occupations, meetings with public agents and participation in councils and conferences on housing and urban policy.

Therefore, various popular movements, labour movements, left-wing political parties and the civil society organizations call on all those who defend democracy and social rights to join in the journey of resistance against the criminalization of struggle and in defense of housing as a right. For the immediate freedom of Angélica dos Santos Lima, Janice Ferreira Silva (Preta), Ednalva Franco and Sidney Ferreira, political prisoners vindicating housing!