As a debate about police brutality, racism, and civil rights reverberates across the world from Missouri thanks in part to social media, a similar phenomenon is happening in one area of Rio de Janeiro. Indeed, social media is becoming increasingly important to reveal what really goes on in the city's favelas and is a way for residents to have their voices be heard on a wider scale.
Protest for peace in Complexo do Alemão. Image: Betinho Casas Novas/Voz da Comunidade.
Rio's Complexo do Alemão favela is one of the city's largest, and is a so-called "pacified" community with between 350 and 450 police on duty every day. The pacification process began in 2010 and resulted in some improvements in security, but the policy has come under scrutiny due to a recent rise in violence, crimes like robbery, and attacks on police. Shoot-outs and gunfire are now a common occurence again.
This year alone, seven residents and two police have been killed, while the number of disappeared people rose 180 percent from last year. Overall, the number of reported crimes has risen since pacification began in 2010 with over 6,000 crimes reported in the first six months of this year compared to less than 5,000 during the same period in 2010. For example, the number of muggings from January to June 2014 is slightly higher than it was during the same period in 2010, pre-pacification. Rene Silva, a community journalist who gained international fame after he live-tweeted the police invasion in 2010, was mugged by two armed thugs last week on the street where he lives. They even took his take-out food he was carrying.
There have been two recent social media campaigns to bring attention to increasing violence in Alemão: #PaznoAlemao and #SOSComplexodoAlemao. These hashtags are used on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to create awareness about the issue or other problems in the community, and to show that residents are demanding a peaceful solution. Silva's news organization, Voz da Comunidade and a Facebook page Complexo Alemão organized "twitaços," or a mass tweeting event, to spread the second hashtag in the last two weeks. #SOSComplexodoAlemao got over 3,000 tweets as of last week, and received over 2.67 million impressions on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram over the last 30 days, according to Keyhole hashtag tracking.