SAO PAULO – Thousands of Brazilians marched on Tuesday more than 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) to the seat of the regional government in Sao Paulo, to demand dignified housing and public policies that end the housing shortage.
The demonstration was called by the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) and turning out to make their voices heard were some of the more than 6,000 families who since September have been camping out on private land in the municipality of Sao Bernardo do Campo, in Sao Paulo’s industrial belt.
The marchers set forth from that private property, abandoned more than 40 years ago by a construction firm, and arrived on Tuesday afternoon at the Bandeirantes Palace, the headquarters of the Sao Paulo state government, headed by Gov. Geraldo Alckmin.
Organizers said that some 10,000 people occupying the land at Sao Bernardo do Campo and another 15,000 from southern Sao Paulo turned out for the demonstration.
The Brazilian judiciary had issued a ruling on the occupation of Sao Bernardo do Campo, ordering the land to be returned to the MZM construction firm, which owns the site, although no date was set for that restoration to take effect.
The site encompasses more than 60,000 square meters (some 15 acres) and has been occupied since the morning of Sept. 2 by thousands of families whose breadwinners claim to have problems paying their rent after losing their jobs.
According to MTST figures, in Sao Bernardo do Campo alone there are more than 90,000 families with no permanent home.
Singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso on Monday offered to perform at the site, but a judge, at the request of the Attorney General’s Office, cancelled it because the area is the target of a judicial order concerning the occupation and also because no facilities exist there for a concert.
“This is the first time I’ve been prevented from singing during the democratic period,” said Veloso at the site, where he turned up to lend his support to the families, although he did not sing.
The MTST is asking the Alckmin government to expropriate the MZM land so that apartment buildings can be built there to alleviate the housing shortage in the area.
The MTST, which is the most active social movement in Brazil, this year has staged occupations of other sites supposedly abandoned by their owners, although none have been as large as that in Sao Bernardo do Campo.