new your times
Police Storm Squatters at Rio Stadium Site
Felipe Dana/Associated Press
By SIMON ROMERO and TAYLOR BARNES
Published: March 22, 2013
RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazilian police on Friday stormed the work site of Maracanã, the venerable soccer stadium under renovation ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, in an attempt to end a standoff with more than 20 indigenous protesters who had squatted for years in an adjacent building that once housed Brazil’s first Indian Museum.
A force of about 200 camouflage-clad police officers fired tear gas in the direction of more than a hundred protesters supporting the squatters, and used pepper spray on them at various points in the chaotic operation, drawing sharp rebukes from indigenous leaders and human rights advocates.
By early Friday afternoon, the police appeared to have dislodged the squatters from the building. But the operation highlighted the festering tension here over forced evictions in areas scheduled for development, adding controversy to major sporting events intended to symbolize Brazil’s growing global clout.
“By resorting to force, this reflects the general attitude of state authorities toward the people getting in the way of their sports projects,” said Christopher Gaffney, a professor of urbanism at Rio de Janeiro’s Fluminense Federal University.
The governor of Rio de Janeiro State, Sérgio Cabral, said this month that a new Olympic Museum was planned for the area where the indigenous protesters were living. It is part of a broader renovation of the Maracanã stadium, built to seat more than 70,000 spectators and expected to include a shopping center.
People from various Brazilian indigenous groups — including Pataxós, Tukanos, Guajajaras and Apurinã — had been living since 2006 in huts built around the old Indian Museum, a crumbling 19th-century structure on land donated by a son-in-law of Pedro II, an emperor of Brazil, for a research center on Brazil’s indigenous cultures.
The building eventually housed Brazil’s Indian Protection Service and, from 1953 to 1977, the Indian Museum, before it was moved to another part of Rio. Abandoned by the authorities in the shadow of Maracanã, the building and its grounds were occupied in recent years by indigenous squatters who renamed the area Maracanã Village.
The state authorities said they have offered the squatters temporary housing at a building in downtown Rio. The State Office for Human Rights said the construction of a different “indigenous reference center” was under discussion.
Nonindigenous protesters at the site on Friday seemed to absorb the harshest reactions from the police, as officers fired tear gas into the crowd. A police spokesman said that security forces had to storm the area after a building was set on fire in the grounds of the old museum.
“The indigenous have a natural right to Brazilian territory,” said Daniel Sampaio, 21, a mathematics student wearing a blue feather headdress in solidarity. “The white people took their land.”
Daniel Macedo, a public defender here, told the television network GloboNews that there was “abuse of authority” in the police’s handling of the episode. “The police had no right to use any type of violence,” Mr. Macedo said. “They used pepper spray on my face and that of a prosecutor from the judicial branch.”