Since the October 7 first round of Brazil’s presidential elections, which saw far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro likely to win the presidency, some of his supporters have set upon LGBT people and minorities on social media as well as in the streets.
Bolsonaro came out ahead in the first round with 46% of the vote. But the likely election of the man dubbed the “Trump of the tropics” in an October 28 second round has sparked fears of a wave of right-wing violence.
Brazilian society was extremely polarised during the campaign, and the week following the first round was marked by a series of attacks on opponents of the far-right candidate – and the LGBT community in particular. Bolsonaro has made homophobic remarks on several occasions, including once saying he would rather his son be dead than gay.
Surge in homophobic attacks
Cases of physical violence of an apparent homophobic nature have been reported on social media and in the local press.
On Saturday, October 6, the eve of the election, transgender singer Julyanna Barbosa was returning to her home in Nova Iguaçu in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro when she was attacked by several men. “They began insulting me and saying things like, ‘Bolsanaro really has to win, to clean scum like you from the streets’,” she told BBC Brasil.
Photos of Julyanna Barbosa after her assault were published on social media. France 24 Observers has blurred images that viewers might find disturbing.
The site Mapa da Violencia (“Map of Violence”) says it has received some 50 reports of assault linked to Bolsonaro opponants since September 30. One report involved assailants who had allegedly scratched a swastika-like symbol with a sharp object on the back of a 19-year-old woman.
Speaking to BBC Brasil, lawyer Gabriela Souza said her client was attacked on Monday, October 8, for having worn a sticker on which was written #EleNão with a rainbow flag, an LGBT symbol. The slogan “Ele Não” (“Not Him”) was launched by anti-Bolsonaro activists. An investigation is under way.
Photos of the young woman’s back were published on social media and then by the Brazilian press.
Toni Reis, president of Aliança Nacional LGBTI, tells The France 24 Observers:
I have been fighting for the rights of the LGBT community in Brazil for over thirty years and violence has always been constant. But what we are seeing today is that this violence is becoming normal, natural even. People talk about it with equanimity.
Bolsonaro’s discourse is responsible for this; he has opened the door to an extreme conservatism that always existed among certain people and which is now unhinged. But we are calling for calm: We must never give in to panic but resist, particularly by reporting attacks so that we can analyse what is going on. It is also vital that the two candidates take a clear stance and explicitly condemn violence against LGBT people but also against black people, Jewish people and women.
Murder of a Capoeira master
In several cities, other attacks against Bolsonaro’s critics and journalists have been recorded. According to Agence France Presse, Abraji (Brazil’s association of investigative journalists) has documented 137 attacks – 62 of them physical and 75 on social media – against journalists, noting that these attacks were connected to the electoral campaign.
On the night of the first round, singer and renowned Capoeira martial arts master Romualdo Rosário da Costa (known as Moa do Katendê) was murdered in Bahia State following a discussion in which he declared his intention to vote for Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (PT), Bolsonaro’s left-wing opponent. Tributes to the late singer were posted on social media and an event in his memory was held on Sunday in São Paulo (see images below).
In a Facebook post dated October 10, one person reported an attack on a female friend in Recife after polls closed on the night of October 7. “She was in a bar […] in Recife, and a group of two men and one woman began to kick up a stink over the badges and stickers she was wearing in support of Ciro and #EleNão,” she wrote. (Editor’s note: Ciro Gomes was a centre-left candidate in the first round.)
Paula Pinheiro Ramos Pessoa Guerra, 37, told the daily Folha de S. Paulo that she was beaten by Bolsonaro voters after criticising his views.
This internet user posted photos of her friend, Paula Pinheiro Ramos Pessoa Guerra, after an attack on October 7. The France 24 Observers has blurred images that some readers might find disturbing.
Homophobic, racist and anti-semitic inscriptions
The morning after the first round, grafitti reading “death to dykes” was found in the girls’ toilets of the Franco-Brazilian Middle School in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian news site G1 reported.
Translation: “Graffiti in the school I went to till the age of 15: ‘death to dykes’. The Franco-Brazilian Middle School has always been conservative – despite its French roots – but it was never as bad as this”.
Toilets in São Judas Tadeu University were also defaced in São Paulo. One of the tags referred to “gender ideology” (which holds that differences in gender are social constructs). The second, accompanied by a swastika, was an insult targeting “blacks, feminists, gays” with calls to “burn the Jews”.
On Twitter, the university announced an internal investigation had been opened “so that appropriate administrative and disciplinary measures can be taken”.
Similar reports appeared online throughout the week. The journalist below offers several examples of racist, anti-semitic and homophobic graffiti found in school toilets and in the São Paulo metro.
Candidates call for calm
On October 10, both candidates tried to calm the situation. “You don’t respond to violence using violence,” said Haddad.
For his part, Bolsonaro initially deplored what he called “isolated incidents” and recalled that he himself had been a victim. (The candidate was stabbed on September 6 by a person reported to be mentally ill.)
Later, in a tweet, the former army captain said he would prefer not to have the votes of “those who use violence against others who don’t vote [for him]”.