Black Blocs In São Paulo: A Criminal Gang?

03/21/2014 09:09 am ET | Updated May 21, 2014

Over the past 5 months, the São Paulo civil police has been conducting an extensive investigation to look for evidence to prove the Black Blocs -- groups of masked youngsters, many of Anarchist background, who damage banks, the government or car sales shops to protest against capitalism -- can be framed as a "criminal association".

Groups of Black Blocs have been present in the Brazilian protests since June 2013, and their presence is seen as a threat for social order by the federal and state governments.

In order to tackle what is seen as a major problem that could hinder the World Cup, São Paulo's State Department of Criminal Investigations started this investigation on October 9 2013, after a police car was turned upside down during a protest in the capital. A couple was arrested and charged under the Law of National Security, which dates back to the military era. The Minister of Human Rights Maria do Rosário protested against the use of dictatorial legislation in our current democracy, but the case is still up and running. And it was presented as the main reason for a police enquiry which has already questioned 300 people.

Very little is known about the investigation, as our reporters at Agencia Publica found out. The inquiry is under secrecy, and so is the very document that explains the basis for it to be opened.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the interrogations are being admittedly used as a "strategy" by the São Paulo Police. On February 22, 40 people were summoned to be questioned right at the time that an anti-World Cup march was scheduled to happen in the center of São Paulo, thus preventing these youngsters from attending the protest. In the headquarters of DEIC they heard questions such as "have you visited the Black Bloc Facebook page?", "are you affiliated with a party?", "why do you go to protests?" and "who did you vote for in the last elections?". Of course, vote in Brazil is secret, and none of these questions are reasonable in a democracy. But the strangest question asked during interrogatories takes us straight back to the Cold War (which apparently is very much in fashion these days): "have you ever trained in a guerrilla training camp?". Either the São Paulo Police are making a huge effort to waste the time of all the 300 people who were questioned, or their concept of political organization has been frozen since the 60s.

The defense of those who were interrogated claim that the investigation is only a way to intimidate the protesters. "A police investigation should investigate a crime, and not people. All questions were of a political nature, instead of a criminal one", says Alexandre Pacheco Martins, a lawyer at the Human Rights Commission at the Lawyers Union in the state of São Paulo.

Ariel Castro, a well-known human rights lawyer, adds that "in such an investigation the Police needs to identify who broke what, in which day, or when they threw molotov cocktails. There needs to be very specific facts. You can't incriminate someone based on their ideological beliefs".

It remains to be seen if our civil police can manage to bring forward a consistent accusation of "criminal association" against these anarchist kids. So far, the enquiry has been extended 3 times -- a Police enquiry should last for 30 days, according to Brazilian law -- but no hard evidence was produced and no case was brought before justice.