Former director of PCdoB and a former militant of the black movement, the São Paulo Police ombudsman, 50-year-old criminal lawyer Elizeu Soares Lopes, assumed the role of mediator between the security forces and the movements for and against the Jair Bolsonaro government, which have taken to the streets during the pandemic.
In this interview with Estadão, Lopes praises the governor João Doria (PSDB), defends the São Paulo police, but admits that “individually” among the military there is a “greater predilection” for the federal government.
After the first demonstration, we took some steps at the ombudsman’s office driven by the OAB’s human rights commission. We brought together the command of the Public Security Secretariat, the OAB, the Union of Lawyers and other entities to deepen measures in order that police interventions have a more protective character for people who want to demonstrate democratically. We were called to accompany the demonstrations. In the past demonstration things were a little better. That Sunday we had the presence of the president of OAB-SP.
- But do you think that the PM acted unevenly in the first demonstration?
I do not think so. As institutions, the Military Police and the Civil Police act independently of the current government and do not act ideologically. I found the governor’s attitude very interesting in having the first demonstration, when spirits got more intense, of calling the secretary of public security to repel this idea that there is an institutional preference over one government or another. It was a significant gesture by the state government. But it is evident that individually among the military there is a greater predilection for the federal government. But that cannot contaminate the police’s Republican action. I requested official police information about the conduct of the police at the first demonstration. Some behaviors jumped out at the eye.
For example, a policeman’s attitude towards a lady who carried a baseball bat had a lot of repercussions. His attitude of taking her was correct. The police need not act aggressively, but he did not seize a bladed weapon. Such a person is not in judgment of democratic convictions carrying a baseball bat. It could threaten a person’s life. There are questions from social movements about infiltrators who wanted to create a confrontational situation for the police. All of this needs to be investigated.
- Deaths from PM in the pandemic broke records. There is an escalation of violence especially in the periphery. How do you rate these numbers?
These are strong and high numbers. We have to work so that fewer lives are taken. We have to analyze the circumstances of this increase. We are in the study phase to diagnose this data. These are numbers in a situation where people are more isolated and there has been a decrease in crime.
- Do you, who was a prominent militant of the black movement and secretary of Racial Equality in the city hall under Fernando Haddad, consider that the police act differently on the periphery than in the wealthier neighborhoods?
I think there are some agents who behave outside the police protocol. We need to combat this stance. Racism in Brazil is structural. When a black man from the periphery is in a restaurant in Jardins he is looked at with disapproval. When we don’t see ourselves on TV or in the National Congress, this has a culture that needs to be reframed. All institutions are contaminated by structural racism.
I think so. Some agents are racist and violent, but the institution is not.
- Did you feel like marching on Sunday at the demonstration against racism on Avenida Paulista?
I spoke out publicly. I went to the demonstration.
- Was it as a protester or authority?
I went as an ombudsman to mediate a situation he had there. It is evident that I am against the violence that is racism. We need to abolish racism in the world. But it is not by increasing with one or the other that we will solve this. The quota law needs to be expanded in the country.
- Does the attitude of bolsonaristas militants to exalt the police and take selfies create empathy with the police, while in the demonstrations against the government we see hostile posters and slogans?
There is a subjectivity there. Of course, wherever you are much more popular, you will behave more pleasantly. This is natural for human beings. As Chaplin said: “you are not a machine, man you are”. The cops have a face, family and history. We are in a very bad environment. The elections are not over. We had an election in which violence and the use of weapons were instigated.
- Mr. it was the last of the Ombudsman’s triple list, which was created 25 years ago, but even so it was chosen by the governor, which broke a tradition. His predecessors had more combative and critical positions regarding the police, while you are considered an appeaser. Does this have anything to do with your closeness to Governor João Doria?
I’m doing the right thing. The ombudsman is an interlocutor of society with the public security forces of the state of São Paulo. The ombudsman needs to be a mediator. The listener’s combativeness is not about using acid words. Combativeness is not measured by words. People cannot confuse Ombudsman with NGO. They are different characteristics. Dialogue does not mean collusion.