Brasilia, Brazil – Today, a group of Indigenous peoples, assembled in Brasilia as part of the “Rise for the Earth Camp,” were attacked by “shock troop” police as they peacefully protested bill 490, a new proposed law that if enacted would definitively strip Indigenous land rights. The protest, including children and elders, to the Constitutional, Justice, and Citizenship Commission (CCJ) congressional building, was proceeding without conflict when heavily armed police emerged from the building, indiscriminately firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd. Two protesters were rushed to the hospital with serious injuries, while at least a dozen others with minor wounds were treated at the health tent of the Rise for the Earth Camp.
Today’s march to the CCJ was an effort to block the passage of the most significant legislative rollback on Indigenous land rights since the fall of Brazil’s dictatorship. Known as the 490 Bill (PL490), the proposed legislation would severely restrict the recognition and titling of Indigenous lands based on the so-called “Temporal Mark” doctrine. Indigenous peoples would only be considered entitled to lands that were physically occupied by their communities at the time of the ratification of Brazil’s Constitution in 1988, during a time when many communities had been driven from their ancestral territories. Resistance to PL490 is a centerpiece of the “Rise for the Earth Camp” in Brasilia and is considered by the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB) to be an unacceptable regression motivated by Brazil’s predatory agribusiness and extractive industries and backed by the Bolsonaro regime.
Ana Carolina Alfinito, Amazon Watch’s legal advisor in Brazil, witnessed the attack and issued the following statement:
“What I witnessed today, alongside Indigenous people, was completely disproportionate violence by the military police. The Indigenous people who were preparing for a peaceful demonstration in front of the Brazilian Congress were surprised by rubber bullets and tear gas. It was a moment of great chaos, anguish, and violence. What we are witnessing is bill 490 being violently pushed through, without their participation, without any dialogue, without allowing them to enter Congress. Instead, they were met with violent police repression.
“It must be made clear that this bill is a radical change in the definition and understanding of what constitutes Indigenous Land in Brazil. This bill changes everything about how Indigenous lands are perceived and ultimately protected by the government, opening them up to a range of destructive forces. It is a constitutional reform that is being carried out in the absence of Indigenous peoples and civil society as a whole.”
Christian Poirier, Amazon Watch’s Program Director, issued the following statement:
“Today’s brutal police attack upon peaceful protesters defending their constitutional rights is yet another manifestation of the Bolsonaro regime’s explicitly racist and genocidal posture towards Brazil’s Indigenous community. The hundreds of native leaders assembled in Brasilia since early June are literally fighting for the future of Indigenous territories, as well as the vast, preserved forests they steward for the benefit of humanity. The unprovoked violence seen today evokes the routine violence being inflicted upon Brazil’s Indigenous lands and bodies in the name of a rapacious, corrupt, and disastrous form of development.”