Pro-Bolsonaro protests: neither a flop, nor overwhelming

. May 26, 2019
pro-bolsonaro protests 10,000 people estimated at a pro-Bolsonaro rally in Brasília

As The Brazilian Report described on Sunday afternoon, the May 26 protests in favor of President Jair Bolsonaro could have gone one of three ways. The uncertainty around the demonstration meant that crowds could feasibly have been very large, or very small. However, as is often the case, the truth lay somewhere in the middle.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Rallies earlier in the day in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte brought modest crowds, with police forces in the capital estimating a group of 10,000 people gathering to show their support for the embattled Mr. Bolsonaro. In Rio de Janeiro, the event took up roughly seven blocks of Avenida Atlântica in Copacabana, with </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">G1</span></i> <a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">estimating</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> four densely populated blocks at each end of the rally, with a large and sparse space in between.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The main event was held in São Paulo, the country&#8217;s biggest city and where protests were scheduled for the afternoon. By around 3 pm, several blocks of Paulista Avenue—São Paulo&#8217;s main thoroughfare—were filled with yellow and green Brazilian shirts.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Similar to events in Rio de Janeiro, however, the crowd was not consistent, with a number of large sound trucks positioned along the avenue, with large empty spaces in between. By 5.30pm, the crowd had dispersed and the road was already in the process of being reopened for traffic.</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">At the <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BrasilNasRuas</a> demo in São Paulo, large sound trucks are dotted along Avenida Paulista and drawing crowds, but the movement in between each cluster is still sparse. (Photo taken at 3 pm.) <a href=""></a></p> <p>— The Brazilian Report (@BrazilianReport) <a href="">May 26, 2019</a></p></blockquote> <p><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <h2>The President&#8217;s protesters</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Despite having been persuaded to distance himself from the protests, President Jair Bolsonaro shared videos of the demonstrations on Sunday morning, and stated that the movement was &#8220;a message to those who insist on old practices&#8221;—a dig at Congress, which the president says is a purveyor of &#8220;old politics.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While originally called to defend the Jair Bolsonaro government and support the shutdown of Congress and the Supreme Court, the broad demands of Sunday&#8217;s protests morphed into something more moderate, calling for an end to corruption and the approval of structural reforms.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On the streets, the majority of the crowd was made up of Brazil&#8217;s older, white middle-class, and resembled the protests of 2015 and 2016, which called for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. However, there were more vociferous voices among the masses. Notorious pornographer and brothel owner Oscar Maroni addressed the crowd from atop a sound truck, advocating for a &#8220;democratic&#8221; intervention from the military. &#8220;Brazil, who do you prefer? The military, or Lula? The military, or the Workers&#8217; Party?&#8221;</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The Brazilian president called the <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BrasilNasRuas</a> protests as an uprising of Brazilians against &#8220;the old ways of politics.&#8221; <a href=""></a></p> <p>— The Brazilian Report (@BrazilianReport) <a href="">May 26, 2019</a></p></blockquote> <p><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script></p> <h2>The numbers game</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Among the goals of Sunday&#8217;s demonstration was to draw a larger turnout than the May 15 protests against the government&#8217;s education cuts. Those marches, held on a working day and transmitting a clear anti-Bolsonaro message, attracted around one million people to the streets across Brazil.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Without official estimates from the police, it is impossible to accurately compare the size of the two events. However, the common perception is that Sunday&#8217;s demonstrations were infinitely smaller, especially outside of São Paulo.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Even in São Paulo, there is an important caveat to bear in mind. Every Sunday, Paulista Avenue is opened up to pedestrians and attracts thousands of people on a weekly basis. Until around 3 pm, much of the crowd on the avenue was made up of regular citizens enjoying leisure time on what was a pleasant sunny afternoon, potentially distorting the size of the pro-government protest. The </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">May 15 education protests</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, meanwhile, managed to close the famous street during rush hour on a rainy Wednesday.

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Euan Marshall

Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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