Sao Paulo has 19 millions of inhabitants. Admittedly we could not bring them all to march with us, but the cameramen and reporters of several national television channels marched backwards in front of us and on the following day we heard from the Brazilian organizing team that since the march arrived to Brazil, there had been 254 articles or notices about it in the Brazilian press.
We arrived exhausted from Rio with bus, having slept very little and being late in the timetable. A smaller delegation went to the celebrations in the Caucaia Park of Study and Reflection, to an event which I heard was really fantastic, but I had decided to visit Caucaia on my way back to Europe in January, so I went instead with the others to march in the city center of Sao Paulo. Let’s admit it: our expectations in terms of number of attendants in the march in Sao Paulo were not met – we had expected thousands, but there were only some hundreds. That was a shame, because the march and the concert afterwards were excellently organized with logistics for thousands and fantastic performances of well known performers. It is not so easy to know why there were not so many, especially since there was so much media exposure, but perhaps people did not care to come to the city center on a Sunday, or something like that. Anyway, some extent of our message came out to millions through the medias, and those present enjoyed it all very much.
On the march, I specially was impressed by the carnival group Ilu Oba de Min’s candomble-inspired dancing and singing. The multitalented and multicultural concert (see full list of performers here) was bursting with colours and beautiful sounds, including “Vamos Todo Mundo”, a Brazilian theme song for the World March that is one of my favourite World March songs, right after the Senegalese song that is placed in a very profound region of the heart…
On the following day, after resting well in a luxurious hotel with a swimming pool and eating in a nice vegetarian restaurant, we met with the local World March activists. For them, the World March was not only the event of 20.12. but an entire process, “a daily march”, during which they had been working a lot with schools and going to big institutions, understanding enthusiastically that this is a very big project and that nobody has a similar kind of an international network that can realize something like this.
One of the big institutions that were involved in Sao Paulo is the municipal government. That’s where we went then: to the City Hall for a meeting with the Mayor of that huge city. The City was involved in the March also economically: Sao Paulo Department of Tourism had sponsored the concert logistics. Other economic support came from the trade unions of chemists, postal workers and bank functionaries, who had supported with the printing of materials and other logistics.
At the City Hall we met and had the possibility to express our concerns to not only the Mayor Gilberto Kassab, but also to the Minister of Justice of Brazil, Tarso Genro. Several Latin American Presidents have adhered to the March and a few have also met with the Base Team; Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has, despite many attempts and despite generally appearing as a rather progressive and beneficial president for the country, not answered our call. At least here we got to meet one person of his cabinet – Tarso Genro who has in the past also been the Minister of Education, which is of special interest to the Brazilian Humanist Movement, that organized the World March events in Sao Paulo.
Genro came to the meeting since after it he was to sign an agreement on safety measures and to participate in a symbolic action on a related issue: a campaign of disarmament, which coincidentally started on 2nd of October. Since the national plebiscite calling for a stricter law on possession of arms ended with a negative result, the City of Sao Paulo made instead a voluntary campaign. People could give their weapons to the police to be destroyed. The destruction of the arms was demonstrated by destroying some of them in the presence of the Mayor and Tarso Genro.
Besides the Mayor and the Minister, present were several City Secretaries – of Urban Security, International Relations, Human Rights, Environment. The Sao Paulo World March Spokesperson Flavia Estevan kept an excellently prepared speech, where she explained that the question that we want to see with the City Hall is how can we put the theme of Nonviolence in the agenda. Then, the Base Team member Micky Hirsch presented the Charter for a World Without Violence to the Mayor and the Mayor signed the charter. In general the meeting was quite formal, but our contributions went much further than formalities.
Afterwards, we were invited to sit as the audience and look how the Minister of Justice signed the safety measures agreement, and then there would be a concrete destroying of some of the weapons. I imagined a room underground, under the City Hall, where the weapons are melted into a big shapeless block of metal. We got into the elevator and went to the ground floor – but the officials and the policemen had already disappeared somewhere. After some confused looking around, someone found out that we should go further downwards. There was another door to outside the City Hall, and we got directly to the square, where the concert had been on the day before. Already, the Minister and the Mayor and some other men in suits were getting into black limousines and driving away, just when we were arriving. It seems they had some more important business to attend to.
However, at least some of the City Secretaries had that much respect for our presence that they did not immediately run away but engaged in a discussion with Flavia and Micky and others, about themes like organizing a meeting with owners of the press to change their worldview, or giving workshops of nonviolence in the training of the police. Meanwhile one of the local Humanists told us that the ceremony of destroying the weapons happened on the street a few steps away, and some of us rushed there to see what was happening. There was a bunch of policemen surrounding a small bulldozer and in front of the bulldozer, some rifles that the bulldozer had just crushed to pieces. There were also some handguns and we came with our banners and posed in front of the guns and the remains of the rifles while the policemen looked and made sure that nobody steals any of the guns. After the procedure in any case there still remained some guns to be destroyed – the ones that were hanging from the belts of the policemen…
Afterwards we travelled to an apartment of a local member. Sao Paulo traffic is congested and the metro is the quickest means of transport, but when we got to outside the metro station, we decided that we do not dare to enter the metro. During the rush hour, it is impossible to keep together a big group like us in the metro, and we did not want to get lost. So we took the bus instead and spent the evening together in an apartment, before saying goodbye to the Paulists (the Sao Paulo people) and to ourselves: here the Atlantic Base Team was split and myself, Magaly, Micky, Angelika, Andres, Bhairavi and our accompanying friend Gonzalo left to Londrina with a night bus, while Irene, Inma, Luis, Aurora, Jacqueline, Tommaso and Sandro stayed in Sao Paulo for the night and left in the morning for Curitiba. But that’s another story…