[Hpn] POLICE CLASH WITH APARTMENT SQUATTERS

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Tue, 16 Aug 2005 16:31:31 -0400


http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/americas/08/16/brazil.squatters.ap/

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- Riot police enforcing an eviction order used tear
gas and rubber bullets Tuesday to force 300 squatters out of an apartment
building they have occupied for more than two years. At least seven people
were injured.
The clash in Brazil's largest city lasted an hour as squatters on the roof
of the six-story building hurled debris onto hundreds of police massed
below, Maj. Sandro Afonso de Rego said. One officer was hospitalized for
observation after being knocked unconscious by a chunk of wood that landed
atop his helmet.
Police responded by spraying tear gas and firing rubber bullets into the
building. They broke down a large metal front door that had been welded
shut, and some squatters alleged police inflicted indiscriminate beatings
with batons after they stormed the building.
Rego denied that police used excessive force and said he did not know how
many of the squatters suffered injuries.
At least six of the 20 people detained by police were being treated in
emergency rooms, but their injuries were not believed to be
life-threatening, said Andre Araujo, a lawyer representing the squatters,
members of a group that organizes invasions of unused apartment buildings
for Sao Paulo's legions of poor.
But Rosineide Fortunato Candido, a 38-year-old woman who had been living in
the building since she lost her job ironing clothes, said officers beat
children as young as 10, her 20-year-old son and broke the nose of one of
the squatters' organizers.
"We didn't resist or throw anything," said Candido as she sat outside the
building with her 9-year-old son, guarding their sofa, stove, refrigerator
and bed. "They just came in swinging to kick us out, and now I'm going to
have to live on the street."
The clash was the first violent incident involving urban squatters in Sao
Paulo since April 2004, when police evicted hundred of squatters from
another city building, injuring four.
The squatters are demanding that Brazil speed up redistribution of land to
the poor. Their highly organized groups target vacant buildings with owners
who are behind on tax payments.
The building raided by police Tuesday was occupied by the squatters in 2003
during a wave of building invasions across Sao Paulo, Araujo said. The
people occupying it didn't want to remain there permanently, but were
staying in a bid to convince city and government officials to give them
cheap subsidized housing.
Rego said police decided to use force to evict the squatters after they
broke an agreement to leave peacefully and started throwing objects from the
roof. Araujo said there was no deal, and the squatters decided not to leave
because they wanted city and state officials present during their exit.
A police division that represents citizens opened an investigation into the
eviction after receiving allegations of police abuses, said Julio Cesar
Neves, an official with the police watchdog organization.
Squatters said many riot police officers were wearing uniforms but did not
have nametags identifying themselves, an infraction that can result in
suspension from the force.
Brazilians are particularly sensitive about the issue, because riot police
with no identification routinely used excessive force against demonstrators
during the country's 1964-1985 dictatorship.
"If the officers aren't wearing nametags, how do we know they're really
police?" Neves asked.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- Riot police enforcing an eviction order used tear
gas and rubber bullets Tuesday to force 300 squatters out of an apartment
building they have occupied for more than two years. At least seven people
were injured.
The clash in Brazil's largest city lasted an hour as squatters on the roof
of the six-story building hurled debris onto hundreds of police massed
below, Maj. Sandro Afonso de Rego said. One officer was hospitalized for
observation after being knocked unconscious by a chunk of wood that landed
atop his helmet.
Police responded by spraying tear gas and firing rubber bullets into the
building. They broke down a large metal front door that had been welded
shut, and some squatters alleged police inflicted indiscriminate beatings
with batons after they stormed the building.
Rego denied that police used excessive force and said he did not know how
many of the squatters suffered injuries.
At least six of the 20 people detained by police were being treated in
emergency rooms, but their injuries were not believed to be
life-threatening, said Andre Araujo, a lawyer representing the squatters,
members of a group that organizes invasions of unused apartment buildings
for Sao Paulo's legions of poor.
But Rosineide Fortunato Candido, a 38-year-old woman who had been living in
the building since she lost her job ironing clothes, said officers beat
children as young as 10, her 20-year-old son and broke the nose of one of
the squatters' organizers.
"We didn't resist or throw anything," said Candido as she sat outside the
building with her 9-year-old son, guarding their sofa, stove, refrigerator
and bed. "They just came in swinging to kick us out, and now I'm going to
have to live on the street."
The clash was the first violent incident involving urban squatters in Sao
Paulo since April 2004, when police evicted hundred of squatters from
another city building, injuring four.
The squatters are demanding that Brazil speed up redistribution of land to
the poor. Their highly organized groups target vacant buildings with owners
who are behind on tax payments.
The building raided by police Tuesday was occupied by the squatters in 2003
during a wave of building invasions across Sao Paulo, Araujo said. The
people occupying it didn't want to remain there permanently, but were
staying in a bid to convince city and government officials to give them
cheap subsidized housing.
Rego said police decided to use force to evict the squatters after they
broke an agreement to leave peacefully and started throwing objects from the
roof. Araujo said there was no deal, and the squatters decided not to leave
because they wanted city and state officials present during their exit.
A police division that represents citizens opened an investigation into the
eviction after receiving allegations of police abuses, said Julio Cesar
Neves, an official with the police watchdog organization.
Squatters said many riot police officers were wearing uniforms but did not
have nametags identifying themselves, an infraction that can result in
suspension from the force.
Brazilians are particularly sensitive about the issue, because riot police
with no identification routinely used excessive force against demonstrators
during the country's 1964-1985 dictatorship.
"If the officers aren't wearing nametags, how do we know they're really
police?" Neves asked.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.