On Sunday August 15th there was an important meeting in Laboriaux, including: around 70 residents of Laboriaux, Lawyers from Rio de Janeiro’s Public Defenders Office, religious leaders from the Pastoral das Favelas (of Rio’s Archdiocese), university professors, community activists from at least six different favelas, leaders of at least 4 NGOs, and engineers from Rio de Janeiro’s Regional Council of Engineers and Architects. This gathering took place in the recently re-opened chapel. There were upwards of 70 people in attendance. Most participated from within the Chapel, but dozens spilled out into the street when there was no more room left inside. This was the largest meeting in Laboriaux in over 3 months. The event was pivotal because it brought a sense of unity back to the community.
The location of the meeting in itself was a small but significant victory for Laboriaux. The chapel is the only catholic place of worship for Laboriaux’s approximately 3500 residents. The chapel is very important to the community, located in the world’s most populous catholic country; it had been condemned and closed by Eduardo Paes since the April rains. This place of worship is very special to residents. See our April updates for info on how the chapel served as a safe space for 16 children and their parents, whose homes suffered damaged during the April rains. The city condemned the chapel and those seeking refugee were forced to move to a shelter further away, where overcrowding, filth and even crimes were reported to be common.
The re-opening of the chapel was victory in itself, the meeting, the first in a few months was another. The theme of the meeting focused on the City’s continuing plans to remove residents from Laboriaux. The public defenders were there educating resident on their rights, and explaining in simple language about how much of what the City is doing is illegal, including having residents sign over their homes, often without even understanding they are doing so. The Public Defenders explained legal measures that could be taken to correct any mistakes made during the first several weeks after the rains, what residents could do in the meantime and what to expect once the October elections are over.
People from other communities affected by forced eviction were also present, including a group of 8 residents of Estradinha. They warned residents of Laboriaux of not becoming complacent, because when everything started back in April they were. As a result roughly 70% of Estradinha is abandoned or demolished, and the City has neglected to remove the debris, which among other problems has attracted, rats, roaches and mosquitoes and made their community resemble a bombed-out war zone. Also during the meeting, Mauricio Campos the Engineer that’s been fighting with local residents since the beginning, promised to conduct further field research behind the houses in Laboriaux. This is something that has never been done, not even by Geo-Rio. Mauricio arranged to visit Laboriaux on Sunday, August 22nd.