A week before scheduled nationwide protests calling for the president's impeachment, Dilma Rousseff gave a major televised address met with booing, horn-honking, insults, and pot-banging in several cities throughout the country.
The president gave a speech on the country's austerity measures, asking for patience with the economy and blaming Brazil's woes on a historic drought and an international slow-down. She made just one mention of Petrobras, the country's embattled state-run oil company at the heart of a massive corruption scandal.
The address was met with "balcony protests" in various neighborhoods in cities throughout Brazil. There were widespread reports in São Paulo, as well as Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, and Goiânia. Some protestors yelled, "Fora Dilma!" (Get out, Dilma), as well as profanity. #VaiaDilma (Boo Dilma) was the top trending topic in Brazil this evening, and also made the top 10 global trending topics. Videos of reactions to Rousseff's speech spread quickly on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Whatsapp, and Snapchat.
"The Planalto should understand that what happened on Sunday in São Paulo should serve as a warning about the deterioration of the political situation that could hurt Dilma and the Workers' Party," wrote political journalist Kennedy Alencar on his blog.
Brazil remains politically divided after one of the closest presidential elections in recent history, with the president's approval rating falling to 23 percent in February. Meanwhile, protests in favor of impeaching Rousseff are scheduled for March 15, a plan which has spread on social media.
There are numerous Facebook invitations to the demonstrations, each with over 100,000 people signed up to attend. One has around 230,000 people RSVPed, and another has nearly the same amount. A third event listing protest times and locations in 18 cities has around 135,000 people who say they will participate.
Political tensions are mounting amid concerns over the economy and the Petrobras scandal, and public anger toward the ruling party during election season has lingered.
For example, an online petition demanding Rousseff's impeachment has reached nearly 2 million signatures. Last month, a video surfaced of Rousseff's former finance minister quickly leaving a public hospital in São Paulo after getting heckled. The same month, a group of protestors interrupted an event during Rousseff's first official trip of her second term, yelling "impeachment!"
While it's unclear how many people will actually hit the streets next Sunday, reactions to the pot-banging "protests" today indicated just how politically fractured the country is. It seems Brazilians can't even agree on how to express their political discontent.
Because many of the reported pot-banging demonstrations took place in wealthy and middle-class neighborhoods, some on social media dismissed them as isolated incidents among the rich. Critics joked that the protesters had to call their maids to find out where their pots were stored, or simply couldn't find pans to use.
Paneleiros pic.twitter.com/8jMor1ZGDI— rodrigo vianna (@rvianna) March 9, 2015
Meanwhile, others in favor of the protests spread videos and underscored the number of cities with reports of demonstrations. Others used the so-called panelaço to encourage people to show up to the impeachment demonstrations on March 15. Some people were circulating photos like these on Twitter to try to show that it's not just the rich who oppose Rousseff.
São Paulo-based journalist José Roberto Toledo wrote on Twitter: "Political division is also geographic. Those who heard the pots today live in areas where Aécio won in 2014. It was intense. Extensive? We'll see on March 15."
A divisão política é também geográfica. Quem ouviu panelas hoje mora onde Aécio ganhou em 2014. Foi intenso. Extenso? A ver no dia 15.— Jose Roberto Toledo (@zerotoledo) March 9, 2015
Bruno Torturra, a São Paulo journalist known for his past work with Mídia Ninja, wrote on Facebook: "The phenomenon isn't explained by social class alone, and it's apparent that it just aggravates this inflammatory and precipitated reaction from those on the left who were offended by the shouting...this country is impregnated by hate."
Meanwhile, Brasília-based journalist Vicente Nunes said that those close to the president were taken aback by the reactions to Rousseff's speech. "The Planalto is in panic about the spontaneous reaction to President Dilma. The president's advisors say they're perplexed."
Palácio do Planalto está em pânico com reação espontânea contra a presidente Dilma. Assessores da presidente se dizem perplexos.— Vicente Nunes (@vicentenunes) March 9, 2015
Political scientist Maurício Santoro, based in Rio, wrote on Twitter: "You don't need to be a pro-coup extremist to be frustrated and angry. The president needs to respond to the population's legitimate wishes."
Não é preciso ser extremista pró-golpe para estar frustrado e com raiva. Presidente precisa dar resposta aos anseios legítimos da população.— Maurício Santoro (@msantoro1978) March 9, 2015
São Paulo-based entrepreneur and blogger Marco Gomes shared his frustration with the evening's events. "I think protests in apartment windows are interesting, since they demonstrate dissatisfaction that I, too, feel. At the same time, I think it's pathetic not to actually [protest] in the street."
Acho interessante o protesto das janelas dos aptos, demonstra uma insatisfação que tb sinto. Ao mesmo tempo, acho patético não ir p/ a rua.— Marco Gomes (@marcogomes) March 9, 2015
And there remains the question. Brazil's 2013 protests took many by surprise. But given increasing political tensions, the marches scheduled for March 15 could gather real numbers, considering the emotions seen tonight. Or they could completely fizzle if people aren't interested in leaving the house. We'll find out next Sunday.
Update 3/9: Added Bruno Torturra quote.
Image: Screenshot, Brasilia panelaço video.