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Reflecting on an Unexpected Protest in São Paulo – 2014

The end for my new book project, Brazil: After the Honeymoon Period, is already in sight and I’m VERY excited about releasing it! This means I’m likely to have more time to devote to this blog too, which I am also looking forward to!

One of the chapters in the new book focuses on the protests that have gone on here over the last few years. Unfortunately, the story I’m about to share now didn’t make the final cut, it just didn’t really fit in. Like Michelle from Destiny’s Child, it’s place in the chapter looked a little awkward, a little out of place…but I still love it anyway!

So allow me to give a bit of background. After Brazil was rocked by mass demonstrations back in June 2013, the number of protesters taking to the streets dropped considerably. Demonstrations never really went away completely of course, they would still pop up from time to time. Some were planned through social media a few weeks in advance, but others took me by surprise. Like the one I’m about to describe:

So, a few months before the World Cup I was walking to the metro station for my morning class. It was some time around six thirty am.

Do you know what? I’m going to write that again.

I was walking to work some time around six thirty.

I seriously feel like I’m writing about someone else right now! Like one of those guys from a Men’s Health magazine who boast about getting up early to exercise and do other exuberantly healthy things. But I had a student who thought nothing to waking up at five am, getting to work by six and then having English class an hour into his working day.

On reflection, I’m not sure why I ever agreed to teach this seven am class. The sound of that alarm at six am never excited me.

Naturally, I didn’t last too long as this guy’s teacher.

But anyway, I’m not writing this to give you all an insight into my sloth-like sleeping habits these days! I’m writing because I saw something very unexpected one morning as I was walking to the station – in my zombified state.

The morning sun may have only just lifted the blanket of darkness off São Paulo an hour or so before, but in the square to the left of the station I saw about two-hundred flag-waving protesters.

I really couldn’t believe it!

Each one was chanting with a scary amount of vigor and enthusiasm for this time in the morning. I’m not even sure what it was that they were protesting about. In the run up to the World Cup there were many sporadic demonstrations that, for a foreigner like me, it was difficult to keep track of what everyone was there for.

But it hardly mattered.

How I imagine these protesters would have looked later that afternoon.

The fact that there were so many who’d come together to protest at such an early hour really impressed me. Like, seriously. I wish I had that much commitment to ANY part of my personal life as these guys were showing this morning! As I walked past them I speculated as to what must have been running through their minds the evening before.

“Do you know what? If I wake up at five, I can shower, eat breakfast, fit an hour of protesting in and then be at my desk for eight!”

I should say that this was the only demonstration I ever saw at this time. I’m not sure if it was a one-off or if I was just not up early enough to see any more taking place at such an ungodly hour, but I didn’t ever hear of any others.

This was a comparatively small protest to the huge ones I saw back in June 2013. Actually, when I saw this demonstration in 2014, I genuinely imagined that the level of protesting seen the year before wouldn’t be matched. That these protests would probably fizzle out at some point after the World Cup.

Oh, how wrong I was!

Huge anti-government and pro-government rallies flared up again in March 2016, capturing the imagination of a number of Brazilians once again.

But this early morning demonstration will not be one I’m likely to forget!

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