Did you think you'd live to see the day? Some Brazilians were asking that question today during a series of historic, nationwide protests. One of the recurring themes? The giant awakens. Finally, finally, it seemed, Brazil had awakened from a long stupor, and Brazilians had finally stood up to demand change. While bus fares were still on the agenda, Brazilians turned out to demand more from the government: less corruption, better transportation, education, and public health, more security, less for the World Cup, more for the public good.
The protests brought an estimated 100,000 people to the streets of Rio, 65,000 to São Paulo, 20,000 to Belo Horizonte, 10,000 to Curitiba, and thousands to cities all over the country (see a full map of the protests here). Seeing that many people assemble in Rio to protest--and not for Carnival--was a beautiful sight. Some protesters said if you looked around, you couldn't see where the crowd began or ended. An amazing Vine video gives you a sense of the size.
Desde Diretas-Já e Impeachment de Collor, as ruas do Brasil não reuniam tanta gente em protesto. Pior reação é ignorar o que ocorreu hoje— Kennedy Alencar (@KennedyAlencar) June 17, 2013
Protesters and journalists alike remarked how amazing it was to see so many people exercising their rights, and in most cases, protesting peacefully. "That's what I'm going to tell my children; that's what made me feel truly Brazilian for the first time in my life," wrote a friend at the Rio protest. "I think [that was the case] for many people." People marveled at the fact that Brazilians seem to care more about the protests than the Confederations Cup.
According to reports, though many protesters were young, there were people from a variety of ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Though some still opposed the protests, people from different parts of the ideological spectrum--especially young people--showed support.
Even those who stayed home were eager to share what was happening.
Ainda q eu sempre reclame do chorume no FB, é legal ver pessoas insuspeitas discutindo, lendo, pensando e, às vezes, até mudando de ideia— Drunkeynesian (@drunkeynesian) June 17, 2013
In my opinion, the biggest accomplishment of the protests was to prove that the government will be held more accountable from now on. Citizens flexed their muscles, and must have certainly gotten the attention of politicians ahead of next year's elections.
Brazil protesters tonight challenged symbols of political power: Governor's Palace (São Paulo); State Legislature (Rio); Congress (Brasília)— Simon Romero (@viaSimonRomero) June 18, 2013
That was especially true in Brasília, Rio, and São Paulo. Protesters tried to invade state government buildings in Rio and São Paulo, and climbed up onto the roof of Congress in Brasília. The scene of some of the protesters peacefully walking down the ramp from Congress was a sight to see.
Now, it's President Dilma Rousseff's move: through a spokesperson, she said she was following the protests, noting that peaceful manifestations are "legitimate" and part of democracy. But it remains to be seen what else the government will do now, and how much will be done behind the scenes.
Though the breadth and size of the protests were large by Brazilian standards, they're still smaller by comparison to other countries with more frequent public demonstrations. It's unclear if more of this size will continue. (Another protest is planned in São Paulo on June 18, and another in Rio on June 20.)
Whether this will be a blip or a movement is still unclear. But it's now obvious that many Brazilians favor change, and are willing to physically stand up for it. Could this emblematic commercial be prophetic? Or not?
A protest movement with no specified, concrete demands will not change anything.— alex bellos (@alexbellos) June 18, 2013
Images: via Voz da Comunidade, social media, Movimento Sem Corrupção.