In the last few weeks in Rio, two different people passed through police checkpoints at two different places in the city. The consequences of these traffic stops reveal the city's social divisions, which in this case was a matter of life and death.
First, a video went viral this month after an irate driver flipped out on a police officer in Rio de Janeiro. It's a clear-cut of example of the "do you know who you're talking to?" attitude of the elite.
On January 30, Rio police tried to pull over a car as a part of a routine traffic stop in the city's West Zone. The driver, 50-year-old Ana Maria Lucas de Souza, refused, and police followed her for over a mile until she finally stopped. She then proceeded to scream at one of the cops and talk loudly on her cell phone. The police officer filmed the incident, which has tens of thousands of views on Youtube and across the web, as the video inspired ridicule and memes on social networks.
"I'm an architect! I can't be arrested," the driver yells in the video. She even tries to grab the camera out of the policeman's hand, and tells the cop: "I'm older than you." When the officer says he's going to tell his supervisor, she tries to pull rank, saying that she knows the higher-ups from working on government building projects. She was charged with contempt and is getting sued by the police officer for moral damages.
In one meme circulating around the web, a photo of the woman appears with the text: "I'm an architect. I'm working on projects for several UPPs [police pacification units]." Then what follows are images of what the government said UPPs would look like, gleaming modern structures, and then what many wound up looking like, which is shipping containers.
Meanwhile, across the city on February 8, another motorist wasn't so lucky. Mototaxi driver Diego da Costa Algarve, age 22, was shot and killed by police after he didn't stop his bike during a traffic stop in the Vila Cruzeiro favela. Some social media users pointed out the hypocrisy of the two incidents.
The shooting caused tensions to run high in the community, sparking protests in Vila Cruzeiro and during the victim's burial. Schools and businesses even shut down and around 100 mototaxi drivers demonstrated on Avenida Brasil this week. Rio State Secretary José Mariano Beltrame admitted the killing was wrong, and called it "disastrous." The homicide is now under investigation.