On the morning of September 1st, eight members of the Movimento Brasil Livre (MBL) provoked a riot and attacked students and an employee at the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR). Minutes before entering the D. Pedro I Building, more precisely inside the Academic History Center, armed with cameras and pepper spray, the militants even recorded a video posted on their social networks saying that they were going to enter to check “the vagrants that are defending.”
UFPR issued a statement condemning the group’s action and reported that, through the Dean of Student Affairs, it filed a police report with the Civil Police of Paraná.
:: How to understand the MBL invasion and the attacks on the UFPR rectory? ::
Similar attacks occurred in 2016, when high school students occupied state schools against the High School Reform. At the time, in Curitiba, MBL activists entered schools and attacked students.
To analyze the action, Brasil de Fato Paraná spoke with the professor and researcher of Political Communication and Public Opinion at the Department of Political Science at UFPR, Emerson Urizzi Cervi, who highlighted that this was a pre-election tactic.
:: After action by MBL, Federal University of Paraná repudiates attacks against student and employee ::
Brasil de Fato Paraná: MBL activists recorded a video saying that the action was to show the “vagrancy” carried out inside a public university. This was also a speech made by former ministers and former president Bolsonaro. What is implicit in this action and speeches?
Emerson Cervi: This is an action foreseen in the forms of action of these types of international far-right groups. In the United States there is a group called Proud Boys with the same way of acting: entering public buildings, attacking, offending and recording. Two leaders of this group have already been convicted of the invasion of the Capitol and are serving sentences.
In Brazil there are groups similar to this, with the same motivation. Public universities, unfortunately, cannot serve all young people of school age. There is a selection process and some of those who fail to pass turn their frustration into anger and end up turning against the activities of those who study and work in public buildings. It was not Bolsonarism that caused this. Bolsonarism only gave vent to these feelings that are historically present in some segments of society.
:: Priority is to isolate Bolsonarism and dialogue with those who rejected January 8th, says Padilha ::
The MBL carried out similar actions in 2016, during the occupations of high schools. Do you believe that it was also a pre-election strategy, since at that time several candidates emerged from these MBL activists?
Yes, there is a temporal connection between the municipal pre-election period and these vandals’ actions. The reason is that the extreme right seeks alternative paths to party life to reach elected positions such as the City Council.
In the past, it was via the media (there was a group of radio broadcasters), then it started to be via religious leaders (there was a group of pastors) and now it is via extremism influencers on online social networks.
In 2020, some with this profile were already elected. Now it’s time to look for likes and shares on social networks so that next year part of this turns into votes. And it is a path that tends to remain, because to be elected councilor of a municipality, 1% of votes are enough. That is, if in a municipality there are 99% of voters opposed to hate speech, radicalism and vandalism to generate electoral capital, it is still possible to be elected with this type of strategy. And, in Curitiba, unfortunately this percentage is well below 99%.
:: Did the far right discover human rights after January 8th? ::
Does this hatred of public universities, so widespread in the election that elected Bolsonaro and which is part of the MBL narrative, still have repercussions in society?
There is a portion of society that has always harbored some negative feeling towards public authorities. For the university, this percentage is even higher, as the competition is great and for every person who passes the entrance exam, another ten experience failure every year.
Of course, this does not justify violence and vandalism. Only in a minority is the feeling of defeat transformed into violent behavior against the public university. The problem is that in these cases there is not enough information to modify the behavior.
Either we understand that the origin of the problem lies in extremist discourse or we will continue to “clear the ice” and periodically see regrettable scenes like those that occurred at UFPR. The worst thing is that the violence of extremist militants can always increase and external attacks on the university, students and staff turn into more serious things.
Source: BdF Paraná
Editing: Lia Bianchini