On December 2, the government of Maranhão carried out a massive eviction and destruction of houses on stilts in the state capital, São Luís. For some time people have been building houses on stilts in various parts of the city, which highlights a chronic problem in São Luís: the housing issue. This time it was the stilt homes built under the José Sarney Bridge (also called the São Francisco Bridge) that were targeted by the violent Military Police of Governor Flávio Dino, of the revisionist Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB).
Residents reported that the justification given by the Military Police (MP) for evicting the residents was that the stilts were polluting the sea and damaging the environment. Curiously, the MP left behind the wreckage and debris of their destruction which is gradually being carried away by the tide, revealing the “environmental issue” as a poor excuse to legitimize the eviction and expulsion of poor people from certain parts of the city.
The police, consistent with their function of repressing the people, beat, dragged and shot at people, dropped flash bombs and used pepper spray.
The event generated revolt and sympathy among the people of São Luís, bringing together many people in a demonstration on the bridge after the eviction.
There are about 100 families living on stilt homes with children and the elderly. The number of people living on stilts under the São Francisco bridge has recently increased due to the pandemic, with the health crisis linked to the economic crisis. Many people became unemployed and were unable to continue paying rent for their homes.
According to the Combate collective, the state’s discourse that residents rejected the social rent offered by the government only seeks to delegitimize the just cause of the struggle for dignified and secure housing.
During the incident, three residents of the São Francisco area were interviewed by the collective.
THE FULL INTERVIEW:
1st question: Why are you doing this act?
Resident 1: First of all, we are not invading property, we are not invading anyone’s house. We are here under shelter, we came to live under the bridge so as not to disturb anyone. We are not here because we want to. Nobody comes here because they want to. I have a one year old son and that’s not what I want for my son. That’s definitely not it. But we don’t have the privilege of many, we don’t have the good education that many have, an opportunity.
Resident 2: We are family mothers, there is no vagabond here. I have a couple of twins, I have a nine year old son. I’m here because I need to and not because I just want to get in to make a mess.
Interviewer: You told me that you used to be a renter and that people are making up lies saying that you have already acquired a house. Could you explain it better?
M1: They’re saying that we’ve lived on stilts before, that they took it away from us and now we’re coming back because we like it. We don’t like to be here.
M2: I never wanted to bring my son here. I really don’t have a place to live, I never did. The only thing I have from the government is the family allowance which is not enough for me to support my children.
2nd question: Was anything promised to you?
M2: They were saying that they’re going to come and talk to us, you know what I mean?
M1: First the police arrived, hit, arrested, cursed, humiliated, treated us like animals, you know?
M2: After they did all that, they said that from the children to adults we were going to get through it.
M1: I saw many people on social media saying that if the police came, it is because we had been warned before. No! Nobody ever came to talk to us. No deal was ever made.
M2: Nobody proposed social rent, the police didn’t even talk to us, they just came knocking over everything and said they were doing their job. Social rent is a lie! Here there are pregnant women, small children, old people, there are a lot of people here, you know?
3rd question: I heard that the police took some people to prison, is that true?
M2: They took a little girl who hadn’t done anything, they even beat her; they dragged people, threw a bomb, pepper spray, they threw everything on us.
Interview: Are there many people still in prison?
M1: There’s one person who’s still in prison, one they released because he was underage and one went to screening. The boys who were arrested were given no justification, they didn’t even let them get a copy of the police report, you know? They take advantage of the fact that we are low-income, poor and they tax the person like a donkey, like a criminal and they don’t give any explanation and end up blaming us for something that is not our fault.
M3: We will be united, what one eats the other eats. They said on TV that they gave us social rent and we refused, that’s a lie. Who would receive social rent and continue living with rats? There are empty apartments in Ribeira, a lot of houses in São Francisco, a lot of places where we can live but they don’t give to those who need.
M1: I would like to know the location of Osmar Filho [of the Democratic Labor Party (PDT)] who was one of the most well voted councilmen here in São Francisco, of Neto Evangelista who almost got elected, who positioned himself very much as a man of the people, where are those people? Where are these representatives? Where is Braide [mayor elected by Podemos]? What is their position on this? After the elections are over, we fall into oblivion, but we will not forget. We’ll keep remembering what they did to us here
M3: They live well because they steal from us, from the people’s money. And here we have only God for help.