Annual camp gathers 4,000 indigenous demonstrators in Brasília for right to land
Police forced the group to change the location of the event; national security forces were used
Representing around 150 indigenous peoples from Brazil, approximately 4,000 people gathered on Wednesday in Brasília to set up the Terra Livre (“Free Land”) Camp.
The event is held every year in the country’s capital city and this year will mark its 15th edition, taking place between Apr. 24 and 26.
The demonstrators started to set up the camp early in the morning near the country’s Congress, but after the police arrived they had to relocate to a nearby area in the Ministries Esplanade.
The Justice Minister authorized national security forces to prevent demonstrators from setting up the camp, which an indigenous activist said was “not surprising” and only shows “the government’s inability to talk.”
“We didn’t find it weird, we know where the federal government stands in this,” said Lindomar Terena, from the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil. “This ‘legalistic’ way the Justice Ministry operates. We understand that using national security forces shows that the Brazilian state, our government, is not prepared to understand the rights of indigenous people and what indigenous land means.”
Brasil de Fato followed the demonstrators as they reorganized the camp in the new location, where groups set up tents while others performed traditional dances, sometimes simultaneously, in the area they will occupy for three days.
It’s the relationship with the land – which also marks their dances – their main demand, another indigenous activist explains.
“The struggle of the indigenous movement during the Terra Livre Camp has always been the struggle for the right to territory,” said Angela Kaxuyana, from the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon. “This year, we are fighting for rights that are being attacked and dismantled,” she added.
Kaxuyana said the camp is a demonstration of “resistance to guarantee our existance.”
In the evening, the members of the Terra Livre camp marched from the esplanade to the Supreme Court building.
Kaxuyana said the rally was based on indigenous peoples’ “serenity and spirituality,” adding that it shows that the movement is “watchful” of their rights.
One of the protesters’ main demands is regarding a Supreme Court decision according to which indigenous peoples would only have the right to territories they effectively occupied when the 1988 Constitution was approved.
Indigenous communities and supporters criticize the decision as it disregards processes of displacement that took place over the course of centuries in the country.