Thousands took the streets of São Paulo demanding Marijuana Legalisation
The biggest ever “Marcha da Maconha” (or Marijuana March) in Brazilian soil took place on the streets of Central São Paulo last Saturday afternoon. The manifestation, which had been made illegal in 2011 but were allowed back last year, gathered thousands of people (the police said there was about a thousand people, but the organisers believe the number was at least 8 times that much) demanding for changes in the national Drug Laws, just when the National Congress is putting forward a new bill which actually intends to make the existing law even more strict and criminalising.
Even thou the manifestation was about Drug Laws in general and the legalisation of Marijuana in particular, other groups that defend other social causes joined the movement. Feminist groups campaigning against a new anti-abortion law, students against the rise on bus tariffs, human rights campaigners defending the right of the indigenous people to have their land protected and a huge number of people unhappy with the government came out to the streets.
The manifestation was the second time in one week that the crowds took to the streets of São Paulo. At the beginning of the week, a protest against an increase in bus tariffs, led by students, ended up in confront with the police, that used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the crowds.
Despite having been allowed to happen by the judicial court (which is a controversy in itself as the right of manifestation is granted by the National Constitution already), and having been openly organised and advertised, the police force showed once again its lack of sympathy with the movement, by carrying out forceful arrests of people who were smocking marijuana during the protest (smocking it is still illegal, but some offenders offered no resistance whatsoever and still were given very bad physical treatment, while onlookers who tried to intervene were also brutally pushed away and beaten up with rubber sticks).
While the police did what it usually does whenever the population tries to speak out in an organised fashion, so did the main stream media. All the main newspapers, TV stations and news websites gave little cover to the happenings (most used the obviously unreal numbers given by the police and not a single article made it to the cover pages), and some editorials explicitly tried to disqualify the manifestations as “middle class pretending leftism”, saying that while there are a lot more important issues to protest over, the well off mummy's boys and girls just want the right to get high and party.
Said that, the organisation of the event, which culminated with live music and a party atmosphere at Praça da República, were happy with its results, despite the expected responses by police and conservative sectors of society. They were happy not only because of the sheer number of people on the streets, but also because of the diversity of the crowd, with many people claiming to have nothing to do with the issue of the drug law itself, but decided to show their respect and support for the political aspect of the manifestation.
By Monday morning, a number of columnists, many of them whom work for the same mainstream media vehicles that denied the protest a bigger repercussion, were writing in favour of the movement, as a legit claim, part of a bigger struggle against the very conservative agenda being carried out by the current government, which more than often sees itself in the hands of both the rural lords and the religious leaders groups that occupy both the Congress and the Senate.