“The collateral effect cost the lives of three homeless people, two mason’s helpers, an açaí vendor, a beach cart employee, and a plumber”. The banner with the words was extended this Tuesday afternoon (22) at the City Council of Guarujá (SP) by representatives of communities targeted by Operation Shield and members of the Mães de Maio Independent Movement.
The men mentioned in the banner are eight of the 20 who have been killed by the police in Baixada Santista since, on July 28, Operation Shield was launched. With no set end date, the police intervention is a reaction to the death of a Rota soldier on July 27.
Five days after the beginning of the operation, which by then had accumulated 16 fatalities and proved to be one of the deadliest in the recent history of the state of São Paulo, Governor Tarcísio de Freitas (Republicans) said, when asked about the allegations of executions and torture, that “there is no fight against crime without a side effect”.
About 150 people from different militarily occupied communities had confirmed their presence at the act in WhatsApp groups. However, under a climate of fear of retaliation – which was witnessed by the reporter in a previous visit to the Perequê community – few attended.
“The people are afraid to show their faces, because they don’t know what could happen. Then the police might want to do terrorism again, murder. So people in the communities were like this. In shock, panic, fear. Scared child, lady going to the emergency room with high blood pressure. When they arrive, they keep their guns up, pointing at our houses”, reported Luísa*, a resident of Perequê, who participated in the act this Tuesday.
“When the elections arrive, the councilors, the mayor, walk through our community, go from door to door, greeting the people. Then the elections pass, nobody sees anyone else. What do we see? Police. Entering our community , doing harm to people, looking like terrorists, murderers. Because they really are murderers”, describes Luísa, explaining that the protest at the City Hall was organized to demand some action from the elected representatives. “We are going through a moment of terror”, she summarized.
The demonstrators entered the Chamber section and unfurled the Mães de Maio flag, as well as a banner and posters with the words “fear”, “justice” and “peace”. As if nothing was happening right in front of him, councilor Toninho Salgado (PSD) continued to talk about the importance of approving a “congratulation motion on the broker’s day”.
The councilors were provoked with shouts of order asking for justice and asked if they had nothing to say. The president of the Chamber, Juninho Eroso (Progressives), limited himself to saying that it already appears in the records of the House that the parliamentarians are “in favor of security” and do not agree with “the way the operation is being conducted”.
“Bandits in Uniform”
Last Friday (18), the PM murdered the plumber Willians Santana inside his own house, in Perequê. Angry, the community took to the streets and followed the departure of the Police Special Actions Battalion (Baep) vehicles, shouting “murderers”, “cowards” and “garbage”. On Monday (21), residents denounced that the PM returned and destroyed stilt houses in the community.
“They had the courage to do what they did with Willians, who worked at Sabesp, cut the hair of people in the community, had several clients, everyone liked him. He was a person who, when the community needed him, he was there to arrange a pipe, fix something. From the moment they entered to do this, they are bandits in uniform”, said Luísa.
The situation is similar at Sítio Conceiçãozinha, where the PM killed, on July 29, Cleiton Barbosa Moura. He was with his baby son and stepson inside the house. Nearby lives Lia* with her husband and two children. Even with fear, she felt the need to protest.
“They are invading the community, entering people’s houses without a warrant, without anything. They even entered mine”, says Lia, commenting that agents from Rondas Ostensivas Tobias de Aguiar (Rota) turned over all her belongings.
“The police arrive like ‘whoever has a ticket (criminal record) has to die'”, denounces Alzira*, a resident of Vila Edna. “What about the mayor then, Dr. Válter Suman?”, She asks, remembering that the PMDB member was arrested in September 2021 in a Federal Police operation that investigated the embezzlement of money in the public health network of Guarujá.
“And he’s there, in the town hall, sitting on the chair, while the mother of the family is unemployed, burying her children, asking please to buy a flower to put in the coffin”, Alzira is indignant.
“We are holding this demonstration to be able to live in peace”, says Lia. “So I can go to work, let my children go to school in peace. We want to be able to be safe, something we are not having”, she points out: “We just want justice, we want peace”.
When consulted about the operation, the Secretariat for Public Security (SSP-SP) says that the deaths resulted from confrontation and that so far 575 people have been arrested.
“Operation Escudo continues to stifle drug trafficking and dismantle organized crime, which has a strong presence in Baixada Santista”, informs SSP-SP, which is headed by Guilherme Derrite, a former Rota police officer.
“The police don’t want confrontation. Confrontation is of no interest to anyone. Nobody wants to use weapons. That gives everyone pain. Now there’s always this narrative that ‘there’s excess, there’s excess, there’s excess’. If there’s excess, we are going to investigate”, summarized Governor Tarcísio de Freitas in a recent press conference.
*Names have been changed to preserve sources.
Editing: Thalita Pires