State Repression and Human Rights Mobilization in Contemporary Democracies: The Brazilian Case (2013-2016)

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Marta MACHADO, Law School - Getúlio Vargas Foundation - São Paulo, Brazil, Brazilian Center of Analysis and Planning - Cebrap, Brazil
Debora MACIEL, Brazilian Center of Analysis and Planning - Cebrap, Brazil, São Paulo Federal University - Unifesp, Brazil
In the two last decades, after the Seattle Battle (1999) and the September 11 (2001), the state repression of political dissent in democracies became a central issue in the social movements literature. Especially in democratic regimes, harder state control strategies of street demonstrations can generate feelings of injustice, and diffuse the protest in defense of civil rights. Thus, the dispute between challengers and state agents by meanings of public and legal order is part of the contentious politics itself.

Two issues that still remain too little developed in the research field. The first is the use of repressive state strategies on an ambiguous continuum from informal or unlawful control (use of police force, surveillance, agents’ infiltration) to lawful control (use of criminal prosecution in courts and legal changes in parliaments). The second is the emergence of human rights mobilizations against state repression and their impacts on the protest field. Human rights coalitions can change the protest field by spreading and connecting contentious episodes from the local space of streets to national and international spaces.

The paper focuses on this two issues based on preliminary results of the ongoing research on the recent Brazilian protest cycle (2013-2016). We analyze the connection and dynamics among three contentious episodes: 1) the stream of repressive state strategies from police control on the streets to legal control in courts and parliament; 2) the legal dispute between protesters’ lawyers and state agents; 3) the human rights activists and lawyers’ mobilization inside and between protest spaces (micromobilization process) and national state and international spaces (scale shift and repertories diffusion processes).