Over the last 14 days, Brazil has seen some of the largest public demonstrations in the country’s history, with Brazilians of all ages, from north to south, taking to the streets.
Initially protesting a 10-cent hike in bus fares in major capitals, the demonstration initiated by the “Free Pass Movement” in Sao Paulo has triggered a national outburst against political corruption, excessive taxation, and absurd government spending for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. Brazilians decided to put their anger into protesting, forcing authorities to withdraw the bus fare increases.
The movement has been met with sympathy by Brazilians of all classes, including those in the MMA world. Last Thursday, UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo joined dozens of his Nova Uniao teammates for a demonstration in downtown Rio de Janeiro. Many other fighters have taken to social media, supporting the protests via Facebook and Twitter.
Unfortunately, in recent days, the positive side of the demonstrations has been marred by a minority of masked troublemakers determined to break the public peace and turn the streets of major cities into war zones. Aside from taking focus away from the main debate, the attitude of this minority has put the lives of many people at risk and tarnished the image of Brazil abroad.
Below, fighters and coaches shared their opinions on the biggest democratic event in the history of Brazil.
“In the first place, I think it’s great that the gatherings have occurred. Brazilians are finally learning to assert their rights. Only with public pressure can we change our society. From now on, I believe we need to start focusing on deeper targets. For example: questioning the perks of politicians -- early retirement, more vacations than the rest of the population, money for clothes... As for the spending on the World Cup, a great protest would be to not even go to watch the games.
“On the other hand, unfortunately, I’m realizing that some people do not have any understanding about what a democracy is. I saw people asking for the impeachment of democratically elected politicians. That’s a coup! Just because I disagree with some political positions doesn’t mean I want them expelled. In the next election, take voting more seriously, try to influence people, make demonstrations. This is part of the democratic game.
“Likewise, there are people wanting to prevent protesters from carrying party flags. Again, we are in a democracy! It’s not ‘because I do not like that particular party, I’ll attack whoever is in favor.’ Everyone has the same right! Ideological differences have to be respected!
“About the violence, it is regrettable. It is a minority, but a minority that causes great damage. Not only physical, but also for democracy. When the violence starts, it opens a door for fascist ideologies to sprout in the name of “order.”
“Therefore, the radicals who support violence and attacks, make no mistake: when feeling threatened, many people who support peaceful demonstrations will be the first to support a fascist regime, as indeed has occurred in the recent history of our country. When in a protest, we have to try to prevent, whenever possible, vandalism.
“May these beautiful displays of citizenship and strength of our people be used wisely, improving our understanding of democracy and the democratic state in Brazil. Violence is not the way. Democracy itself, yes!”
Pedro Rizzo (via Twitter)
“Glad to see that people have discovered their strength, and sad to see that a minority can spoil such a cool movement!”
Jose Aldo (via Twitter)
“Together we are stronger! ‘Thou wilt see that a son of thine flees not from battle!’ Everyone in the protest... Family, together we are brothers. I speak about the Nova Uniao!! United inside and outside the ring for a better Brazil!”
Wanderlei Silva (via Twitter)
“I would like to understand why so many public people are omitting themselves and even are quoting on their social networks to support the protests, to our awakening?
“It’s our time to say: enough!! Ask for a stance from those who you follow on social networks and let’s make every one of them show which side they are!!
“We must use what we have, give support to those who are fighting for better. If you don’t go to the front line of the battle, at least encourages anyone who will.”
Marlon Sandro (via Twitter)
“We did our part to support the protest against the abuse of the increase bus fares, and this is reflected in everything: food, gasoline and so on. But, unfortunately, many people are directionless and unfocused, lots and lots of drunk people thinking they were in a party, taking the brightness of the protest. But congratulations to all going for peace and for a better Brazil. The Nova Uniao family is firm and strong in this making of history. Ooossssss.”
Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (via Twitter)
“I totally agree with peaceful demonstration, but I’m not against the ‘police,’ because a criminal that makes trouble has to go to jail. I am appalled by the looting and vandalism. Yes to protest, NO to vandalism.”
Luiz Dorea (via Twitter)
“Let’s change Brazil! Peaceful demonstrations, YES! Vandalism, NO!! Let’s fight for our rights, Brazil, in peace! Proud to be Brazilian!”
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
“This violence that is happening is a shame for us, but I think that the movement cannot retreat. We have to move on!! Brazil needs political reform, changes in all systems!!”
“I see this popular participation in a positive way. We always complain about politicians, always complain of economic policy, but we do little to change. These protests, not only because of the increase of the bus fare, are due to a series of misconduct and excesses of our representatives. I hope in the next election people reflect on the importance of voting and act with more awareness. I’m only worried about these thugs, these marginal groups infiltrating the peaceful groups. I hope they are punished with imprisonment. These individuals cannot spoil a movement so beautiful and true. Let’s scream, let’s fight for our rights, but without violence, without vandalism! The demonstrations are being held to win our rights, for a fairer, less corrupt country. No more inferiority complex, enough with inaction.”