Favela teens unwelcome in Brazil’s shopping centres

Screen grab of a "rolezinho" in Metrô Itaquera mall, in Sao Paulo. Video published on the Facebook page Partiu, Rolezinho no shopping.
 
Tension is growing in Brazil over “rolezinhos” (“little strolls”), which are flash-mob style gatherings of teenagers from poor urban areas (favelas) in the country’s luxury shopping centres. Sometimes hundreds of teens meet in these malls, which are largely used by Brazil’s wealthy minority, to party, dance, and sing funk songs. Recently, the police sparked outrage after using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the teenagers.
 
On Sunday, one of Rio’s biggest malls closed to avoid a planned “rolezinhos”, prompting a sit-in by activists.
 
It all started on December 7, when hundreds of youth from the suburbs of Sao Paulo gathered for a "rolezinho" in one of the city’s largest malls. Their presence sent wealthy shoppers into a panic and store owners called the police.
 
A "rolezinho" in Sao Paulo's Metrô Itaquera mall. Video pubished on the Facebook page Partiu, Rolezinho no shopping.
 
Since the police crackdown, "rolezinhos" have been increasing, with dozens planned in the coming days in both Sao Paulo and Rio. The Facebook page “Partiu, rolezinho no shopping”, through which gatherings are organised, has more than 10,000 fans.
 
With the World Cup just months away, this phenomenon has Brazilian politicians worried. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has expressed concern that "rolezinhos" could lead to a new wave of protests similar to those that wracked the country last June.
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"They treat these kids as if they belonged to a horde of barbarians"

Pedro Mendes is part of the anti-discrimination collective “Das Lutas”. He took part in Sunday’s sit-in in Rio de Janeiro.
 
The "rolezinhos" trend began in Sao Paulo and is now snowballing throughout the country. On Sunday, hundreds of Rio teens planned on gathering at a shopping mall in Leblon, an upscale neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro. The people who run the mall saw their messages on Facebook, and decided not to open that day. They were scared, even though the young people that take part in these "rolezinhos" haven’t done anything wrong – they don’t steal, they don’t break things… But the mall put up a notice saying “We are closing to protect our customers”. As if a horde of barbarians was about to attack. [Editor’s Note: Géraldo Alckmin, Sao Paulo’s governor, has recently declared that the police should intervene only in cases of theft or violence, and that "rolezinhos" were a “cultural activity”.

This sign was posted on the Leblon mall's doors. It reads: "Dear clients: In order to guarantee your safety ... the Leblon shopping mall will be closed on Sunday, January 19. Signed, the administration."
 
To protest against this shutdown and denounce the unjustified fears that "rolezinhos" elicit in parts of the population, about 50 people took part in a spontaneous sit-in in front of the Leblon mall on Sunday.
 
The "rolezinhos" are organised by poor teenagers, who are mostly black, and who just want to do things that rich people or middle class people do: eat ice cream, go to the movies… But store owners and wealthy shoppers don’t understand. This shows two things about Brazil: it exposes a latent and institutionalised racism, as well as the ever-widening chasm between social classes.
 
 
Photo taken Sunday by our Observer Cris Fagundes on Sunday in front of the Leblon mall in Rio de Janeiro.
 
This sign reads "Stop apartheid!' Photo taken by our Observer Cris Fagundes on Sunday in front of the Leblon mall in Rio de Janeiro.
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