"They treat these kids as if they belonged to a horde of barbarians"
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.