Over the past week, flashmobs have been occurring all over Brazil as a form of protest, drawing thousands of participants and sometimes turning violent. The rolezhinos—"gatherings of predominantly poor, black youths who party in malls usually occupied by mostly wealthy, white consumers"—have been so effective in garnering attention that even the country's president is paying attention.
The protests, according to The New York Times, "involve large numbers of dark-skinned teenagers" and cast an eye on public space in Brazil, where parks are a scarcity in urban areas. One Brazilian academic told the Times, “Kids from the lower classes have been segregated from public spaces, and now they’re challenging the unwritten rules.” With improving conditions for the lower classes, the flashmobs—which involved running, shouting, flirting and singing—are also an opportunity for the adolescents to show off their nice clothing and other signifiers of affluence.
According to the Financial Times:
São Paulo’s first major rolezinho took place at the beginning of last month, when about 6,000 teenagers occupied Shopping Itaquera in the city’s poor eastern suburbs. The event was organised by fans of Funk Ostentação (“Ostentatious Funk”), a popular style of music in the slums that is all about showing off expensive clothes and cars – a reflection of the country’s decade-long consumer boom.
The large gatherings are apparently perturbing Brazil's upper class, and some store owners have obtained injunctions to allow security to deny access to the mall. Some of the flashmobs have involved theft or turned violent against police, who have used teargas, batons, and rubber bullets on the protesters. The clashes call to mind the large demonstrations last summer over bus fare hikes and add uncertainty in anticipation of the 2014 World Cup. The country's president, Dilma Rousseff called an emergency meeting with her ministers last week to discuss how to deal with the issue, especially in light of the upcoming tournament and the country's presidential election in October.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.