29 March, 2009
The sheet was bright white but streaked with blood that was very bright and very red. I was about to turn left into another alley and I practically ran into them. Six huge policemen were carrying the body, and the foot stuck out of the back end of the sheet. Everyone in the alley stopped what they were doing, and some began to cry. I stayed still and watched. At the end of the alley they stopped to take a break, and put the body down on the ground. They covered the body with the sheet, but this did not stop one young woman from lifting the sheet to see if she knew who it was. (The photo above was taken in my neighborhood, the police are standing with the body, in front of the shop where I get juice)
A few days ago the Rocinha traffickers went to Copacabana to steal a cache of weapons that was being stored there. A firefight erupted in the streets between Rocinha traffickers and the police. Normally the gunfire exchanges are limited to inside the favelas, and everyone knew that the police would come to Rocinha, to punish publicly. Two awkward days of waiting ended at 6am with multiple helicopters flying over my apartment. The police invaded, and lifted out a large cache of drugs and weapons. There was an exchange of gunfire and the police stayed for the day to search for weapons and drugs. My area, Valão, is known for hosting weapons and drugs. I had a class to teach this same morning, and I made sure to take my identification with me. The streets were full of police, but things were tranquil. The traffickers, in standard guerilla warfare fashion, disappeared. We watched the police walk through alleys followed closely by pretty reporters wearing Kevlar jackets, and images of the neighborhood were all over the news. I returned to my apartment later in the day, and my alley was strangely empty and silent. As I walked by a door made of thin iron bars, a three-year old girl said in Portuguese, “nobody is there.” She was referring to the institute, where she frequently plays. I asked why and she said because of the police. I walked to the institute and saw several heavily armed traffickers at the end of the alley, it seemed the time for an attack was imminent, but it never happened. The next day things were back to normal.
Dear reader, this will be my last post on this site. I feel I must put this away for some time. After being with my neighbors in the alley as the body was being dragged out, things have changed. Even before that I was feeling a heavy load. My writings have not added any value to our community. Naivety and false bravado have melted into real friendships and real issues. All I saw in my first three months here was violence, and I am seeing things differently now. There is a deeper story here, full of great people doing a million great things every day, and I am guilty of only reporting the story that sells. It’s just too easy to write about the negatives, and I am no better than the field reporter in Iraq who exploits violence to get paid. I will close this blog by midweek.