Media presence halts demolitions in Vila Taboinha

State Sponsored Demolitions. Despite a concerted resistance effort by residents of Vila Taboinha and frantic action by community groups and the public defenders earlier in the week, a bulldozer rolled into the community and started demolishing houses. Late the previous day, an accord had supposedly been reached between the community and the Housing Sub-Secretary of Rio de Janeiro, which would grant Vila Taboinha a 30 day reprieve until the residents and their houses had been registered by the prefeitura. However, registration was still taking place in the community hall as the bulldozer began its work.

Residents successfully halted work using their camera phones. Early claims that the houses to be demolished were uninhabited turned out to be unfounded when representatives from Catalytic Communities (CatComm) arrived in the community to document the demolition. The houses that were demolished were indeed inhabited – and the inhabitants helplessly watched the homes that they had built with their own hands reduced to rubble.

By the time the two representatives from CatComm had arrived, about half a dozen homes had already been bulldozed. As soon as they started filming the bulldozer pulled out and parked, the driver unwilling to continue under a foreign gaze. The CatComm filmers were immediately apprehended by police ,who demanded they hand over their documents. The police attempted to intimidate the CatComm reps with claims that their presence and activity was illegal, and that they would be handed over to the federal police. The team calmly stood their ground to the rising consternation of the police who, in their floundering for leverage, plainly admitted, “We don’t want to show this”.

Alternative media journalists and residents share their images. What followed was nothing less than electrifying. The community, fortified by the presence of foreign eyes, rallied in support of the Catcomm volunteers, quietly closing a circle around the scene. Community members welcomed the volunteers to the neighborhood, calling out support, denouncing the police intimidation and bearing witness with a dozen camera phones extended, filming the confrontation from every angle.

The police were paralyzed, unable to carry on their charade under such inescapable scrutiny. The documents were returned, the team released back into the embrace of the community. The Bulldozer slunk out, defeated for one more day.

That afternoon, the young, newly inspired journalists from the community gathered with Catcomm and members of several other community groups to collaborate and exchange footage. There, on a broken pool table, as the bytes flew back and forth between devices, the knowledge was breathed into Vila Taboinha that the eyes and ears of the world could now be reached.

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