Indigenous Tribesmen Storm Brazilian Congress

In a dramatic scene of protest today in the Brazilian Capitol Building, several dozen indigenous tribesmen clashed with security outside the chamber of the House of Representatives--some armed with batons and sticks. Capitol Police managed to hold back the protesters, most of whom were dressed in traditional garb, from their attempts "to invade the House." The leader of the indigenous group, however, claims their motives were peaceful, and that they wanted simply their voices to be heard by the governing body over issues of encroachment on their native lands.A Peaceful Protest Turns Violent
According to a report from the news agency Globo, despite the peaceful intention of the demonstration, several of the protesters reported injuries--including the group's leader, Anto. He said that his people relinquished their archery tools upon entering the building, but were still assaulted by House security. Even an 80-year-old indigenous man injured, says Anto, and that he "was punched in the ribs and many people were beaten."

House police officials say they did what they had to do to stop the protesters, claiming some were still armed with simple weapons:

I was in the forefront to try to deter entry... Amid the push-push nobody asks their age. In the midst of the confusion is impossible to know who hit and who caught.

indigenous in brasilia photo
Indians demonstrate in front of the capitol in Brasilia.
Indians Want Their Voices Heard
Although policy is in place which protects the rights of Brazil's indigenous communities and their native lands, Anto says that recent legislation will harm their way of life. One of the topics of contention surrounds a law that restructures Brazil's National Indian Foundation, which was passed by congress last year without their legal consent.

The protestors also hoped to voice their disapproval of the Program to Accelerate Growth, passed by the Federal Government in 2007, that calls for an investment of billion of dollars into the nation's energy infrastructure.

Protest to Stop the Belo Monte Dam
One such project that has been the source of much contention among native peoples, as well as environmental and human rights groups, has been the planned construction of a hydroelectric dam, called Belo Monte. Critics argue that the dam, which would be the third largest in the world, will damage the region's plant and animal life--as well as displace native peoples who live there.

According to the Legislative Police, who managed to stop the crowd of indigenous people from entering the floor of the House of Representatives, "[the protesters] wanted to show strength." But, unfortunately perhaps for capitol security and the Representatives who work there, it's much easier to stop a group than it is their voice.

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