Yesterday, Brazilian Military Police, including a squad of elite special police known as the BOPE, violently attacked a surveillance post maintained by the Macuxi people in the Indigenous community of Tabatinga, on Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Territory, Roraima state. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at peacefully assembled community members who were guarding access to their land to prohibit the entry of illegal miners.
Cell phone images recorded by the Macuxi people show an elderly woman crying after being hit in the leg by a rubber bullet and men with injuries, one of them on his head. Two community members wounded by the police were reportedly taken to the hospital for urgent medical care.
The objective of the police attack was to destroy a surveillance post set up by the Indigenous people to prevent illegal gold mining in the region. Police officers also took the community’s radio equipment with them with the clear aim of preventing information about their assault from being released immediately.
The attack comes three weeks after President Bolsonaro visited an illegal mining operation on Indigenous land near yesterday’s attack to call for the legalization of this highly destructive activity.
Joenia Wapichana, Brazilian Indigenous Congresswoman from Roraima, said in a plenary session yesterday: “What happened in Roraima is very serious because monitoring work against gold mining is an issue that Indigenous peoples are facing every day. The Brazilian Constitution says that [Indigenous people have an exclusive usufruct to their territory]. This area is public land… Indigenous people are protecting a public good, which is indigenous land, against invasions, against environmental crimes. It is necessary for the Supreme Court to take an urgent decision.”
Christian Poirier, Program Director at Amazon Watch, issued the following statement: “The Bolsonaro regime places the country’s police at the service of criminals, land invaders, and those behind the destruction of Indigenous territories and lethal violence against Indigenous communities. His government is party to mounting and unacceptable brutality against Indigenous lands and lives, and is directly complicit with the criminal illegal mining networks currently ravaging the Amazon’s forests and waterways.”