by Philo Hagen
While some news sources have taken to saying that peaceful protesters in Rio de Janeiro were armed with screwdrivers and slingshots, Julio Lucio Martin and Mariana Santarelli weren’t armed with anything more than their hula hoops. Outside the legendary Maracanâ football stadium where the Confederation Cup was taking place, the dynamic duo were peacefully hooping surrounded by 11,000 police officers and troops. The Confederation Cup, an international football tournament held every four years that is organized by FIFA took place in Rio de Janeiro from June 15-30, 2013. Brazil won the tournament, defeating Spain 3-0 in the final, but the protesters weren’t there for football. They hoped to utilize all of the media attention on the event for their cause to be heard. Mariana Bandarra of BAM BAM BAM told Hooping.org, “Protests in Brazil have been spreading and growing. It’s been well over a month now and the police have already killed about a dozen protesters in Rio.”
Thousands of peaceful demonstrators marched toward Maracana stadium, a stadium that was recently privatized, where they released a huge poster into the sky tied to helium-filled balloons that read, “FIFA, get out.” Why are they upset with FIFA and what exactly are the protests really about? The country’s inadequate public services are the central complaint at the core of the demonstrations. Mariana Bandarra explained, “The wave of protests in Brazil have been dubbed ‘The Awakening’ and ‘Brazilian Spring’. They started because of an abusive increase in bus fares in large Brazilian cities, but they’ve turned into something about civil rights, really. As far as I know, every protest so far has gone like this: peaceful protesting, police violence, general chaos. The following day protesters are blamed for the chaos and there is an exaggerated focus on so-called ‘vandals’.” The government and media have been calling protesters “vandals” since the peaceful protests began a month ago.
Police and troops mobilized at Maracana stadium to ensure the security of the 78,000 fans attending the event, but the tournament has been hit by unprecedented social unrest. More than 1.5 million Brazilians have been taking to the streets nationwide. “We are against the privatization of the stadium and forced housing displacement linked to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics,” said Renato Cosentino, a spokesman for one of the groups sponsoring Saturday’s protest. Nelson Couto, age 60, told the press, “I am here in an act of patriotism for more education, health, transport — and less football.” Many Brazilians are angry at the billions of dollars being spent to host the tournaments and next year’s World Cup. The government has found funding to build brand new stadiums for 12 World Cup host stadiums while transportation, education and health remain underfunded in Brazil.
Julio, who was seen hooping at Maracana in a gold sequin top, is now being called “The Gold Vandal” by the Brazilian press, a sad and unfortunate moniker considering he wasn’t involved in vandalism of any kind. He told Hooping.org, “We wanted to do a peaceful protest. The hula hoop was just a compliment to that, one we have been using on many occasions.” When I asked about the response from the police he explained, “The police didn’t say anything, they just looked mad.” Hooping protester Mariana Santarelli told Hooping.org, “We usually take the hoops to the protests, we use them both as a support to the cause and to play. When we saw the police we thought that it would be a good way to make them look completely out of place, cause the protest was completely peaceful even though there were more than 7.000 policeman in the streets. Police have been very harsh on protesters. This was a way to talk about it and also to break the tension.”
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003. Co-Founder of the Bay Area Hoopers and LA Hoopers hoop groups, Philo has performed internationally and has won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.