Olympics

Brazilians Are Allowed to Protest Their Mess of a Government at the Olympics, Judge Rules

Spectators can now freely express their opposition to interim president Michel Temer at the Rio Games.

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Free speech scares Olympians
Luis Moreira/Facebook

Brazilians are mad as hell with their government and they'll now be able to express that anger while attending the Rio Olympic Games, following a judge's ruling that only racist or xenophobic speech could be prohibited at the games.

Since the start of the games late last week, spectators bearing signs or shirts protesting Brazil's interim President Michel Temer — frequently using the phrase "Fora Temer," which translates to "Temer Out" — had been finding themselves ejected from arenas for expressing themselves politically.

Last Friday's opening ceremonies notably broke with established protocol by skipping an introduction of the host country's head of state, and when Temer addressed the audience near the end of the ceremony, he was lustily booed by the capacity crowd.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had argued that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas," the BBC reports. In addition, the Los Angeles Times notes that the official Rio 2016 organizers released a statement offering this half-hearted conciliatory nod to free expression: "Brazil is a democracy and outside of the venues there is no restriction."

Alexandre de Moraes, Brazil's justice minister, was quoted by NPR as saying "Freedom of speech is enshrined in the constitution, but these kinds of political protests cannot disturb the games." de Moraes added that the safety of the athletes was at stake, saying "These events require extreme concentration and to have someone shouting is putting the games at risk."

Judge Joao Augusto Carneiro Araujo wasn't having those arguments, and ruled that spectators still have a right to free expression at sporting events.

Temer has been president since May, when Dilma Rousseff was suspended from office pending an impeachment trial. Given the corruption and abuse which brought the Olympics to Rio, it's hardly surprising that the games themselves are not exactly popular with Brazilians, as demonstrated by Olympic officials giving away hundreds of thousands of seats as both a means of buying good public relations by treating poor kids to the spectacle, as well as keeping seats filled so it looks better on television.

Below you can watch a clip of protesters having their homemade "Fora Temer" signs removed by authorities (which included police, military, and civilian volunteers) even all the way up in the nosebleed seats of a soccer match — a vantage point which makes a mockery of authorities' stated concern that protests would be a dangerous distraction to the athletes.

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