On Tuesday morning (13th August), Extinction Rebellion activists protested at Brazilian embassies in 11 countries including Chile, Portugal, the UK, France, Switzerland and Spain to demand “Indigenous blood – Not one more drop”.
The #XRSnowflakes affinity group in London splattered the front of the embassy building with blood-red paint and used stencils to spray messages in white and green paints. The front doors were locked shut with a bicycle D-lock, and three activists glued their hands to the building while two more climbed onto a glass canopy above the main entrance.
Police arrived at the scene shortly afterwards, and then more protesters turned up to support the action – they had been holding a vigil in Parliament Square earlier that morning with a prayer ritual led by Kurikindi, an Ecuadorian from the Amazon rainforest. The supporters held photographs of a few of the many indigenous defenders of the forest who have been murdered or disappeared when loggers move in to their lands. In a commemoration ceremony outside the embassy, many dozens of names were read out, each met with the solemn response “We remember your name”.
Brazilian indigenous groups have expressed fear and anger at Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and the rapid, aggressive changes to their environment that have begun worsening since he came to power in January. Researchers from the National Institute for Research in Amazonia (INPA) have described the recent government policy changes as a “death agenda” which threatens Indigenous people, biodiversity and the global climate. Recent reports show Amazon deforestation rates up 88% compared to June last year – with Bolsonaro claiming the data was falsified. Prominent Indigenous activists, increasingly including female leaders such as Sônia Guajajara, have been leading vocal campaigns to raise awareness and oppose the Government’s anti-indigenous activity.
Just over two weeks ago, Emyra of the Wajapi people was stabbed to death after an armed wildcat miners invaded their village in Amapa. The murder provoked a callout for international help which has been repeated widely on social media, including many who highlight the fact that the Wajapi are at risk of genocide by extractivists. President Bolsonaro denied there is any proof Emyra was murdered, despite official government reports displaying evidence suggesting the contrary.
Marielle Franco (honoured in one of the stencils sprayed on the embassy) was a queer feminist politician serving as city councillor for Rio who was assassinated in March 2018 by individuals linked to Bolsonaro. Franco spoke out about crimes committed in Rio’s favelas by corrupt police, militia and traffickers. She fought against racism, defended LGBTQ+, fought for women’s rights, and was a voice for people living in poverty.
The action was timed in solidarity with two thousand Indigenous women who marched on Brasilia demanding recognition and respect from the Brazilian state. Two months previously, over four thousand Indigenous community leaders made their yearly Free Land Camp (#ATL2019) in Brasilia, marching to the capital to demand justice in “land, rights, and health” from the Brazilian Government. This year’s protests were the focus of high tensions, as Indigenous groups pressed on with their protests despite Bolsonaro authorising the National Guard to be present in a show of force against the demonstrators.
Film appeared later in the day of brave marchers entering the Health Ministry in Brasilia.
The Amazon is recognised by scientists as being the ‘lungs of the earth’ and has a crucial role in soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. At a time when global emissions are still increasing and new climate tipping points are being discovered almost every week, it is sheer madness to be destroying vast swathes of forest for oil and gold, or to plant soya or palm oil and rear cattle.
Police in London arrested six protesters at the scene but Extinction Rebellion organisers say that they will continue “openly challenging the Brazilian government” over state-sanctioned human rights abuses and “ecocide” – the proposed crime of environmental destruction.
All six were held overnight and released early the next morning.
International Extinction Rebellion groups have also stated that further disruption will occur until Indigenous demands for land, rights, health and justice are met.
The Brazilian embassy in London said in response to Extinction Rebellion’s actions that it welcomed anyone wishing to establish a dialogue about Brazil’s public policies, but the right to vandalise property did not exist in any country.
There is a UK parliamentary petition asking the government to lobby for UN and EU sanctions against Brazil to halt Amazon deforestation.