On Friday 13th in December, 1968, at 9:45 pm, general Costa e Silva welcomes Alberto Curi, official presenter of government radio newscast Voz do Brasil (the Voice of Brazil), whom he had sent for 4 hours and 12 minutes earlier. He opens up a mint condition beige folder, and with his right hand he turns over 18 standard pages, typed in bigger-than-usual font, with pencil side notes. It was the Institutional Act #5 document. The presenter asks for time to get ready. His plea is denied. There’s no time, and the TV cameras and radio microphones are all set. The announcer is escorted to the Great Hall, on the ground floor of Rio government seat Palácio Laranjeiras. Facing him is a white marble table with baroque-style legs. Behind him, a copy of the French painter Hyacinthe Rigaud’s oil portrait of Louis XIV. Justice Minister Luís Antônio da Gama e Silva enters the room 12 minutes after the papers were handed over and sits next to the announcer. He wipes the sweat from one eyebrow with his index and middle fingers. Across the hall, the whole cabinet looks on motionless on their feet. The error-free announcement lasts 18 minutes. From that point on, the “President of the Republic” had the power to bypass all limiting Constitutional provisions and decree intervention in states and municipalities, suspend any citizen’s political rights for a 10-year period, or revoke elected officials’ seats at the federal, state, and municipal levels.
God is on the loose! shouts Caetano Veloso on another night, 89 days and 58 minutes before the announcer and the general met. By then, the artist had stopped singing his song “É proibido proibir” (Prohibiting is prohibited), during his performance in Festival Internacional da Canção (FIC, the International Song Festival) taking place at Teatro da Universidade Católica (TUCA, the Catholic University Theater). He was now off on an ad-libbed rant prompted by the infuriated part of the crowd who insisted on interrupting him. Os Mutantes — the band backing him up — kept playing as best as they could as he endured the booing, paper balls, eggs, tomatoes and pieces of wood. The hysteria had likely been triggered by the experimental, oddball aspects of that happening: bright outfits made of plastic, power plugs, pieces of lamps, necklaces and other outrageous paraphernalia; the use of electric guitars; sexually insinuating hip rolling and dancing; and a surprise cameo by the US’ Johnny Dandurand jumping and screaming on stage. Like a sudden trance to go along with his speech, the lead singer appeared to wield an esoteric shield against the commotion as he opposed repression from those committed to a left-wing nationalism that did not tolerate any signs of foreignness, homoeroticism, or religiousness.
170 days, 7 hours and 17 minutes before the announcer and the general met, Passeata dos 100 mil (the 100,000-Strong March) hit the streets in Rio de Janeiro. Amid the crowd, a huge banner stood out, stretched between two long pieces of wood, each carried by one person, bearing the saying Abaixo A Ditatura — Povo No Poder (Down With Dictatorship — Power To The People). The demonstration ended in front of the City Council without any clashes with the heavy police presence which accompanied it the whole time. It had been 5 days, 3 hours and 53 minutes since the beginning of the confrontations that marked Sexta-feira Sangrenta (Bloody Friday), on which a march protesting the political regime that had seized power in the country was met with police gunfire and tear-gas bombs dropped from helicopters. By the end of that day, the body count had reached 27 civilians and one policeman — hit by a cement bucket thrown down from the top of an unfinished building. Of course, hundreds of others were wounded and some 1,000 were arrested. Additionally, 15 police cars were lit on fire on Bloody Friday.
God is on the loose! He might as well be in prison. It hasn’t even been 50 years.
God is on the loose! And the moral is ours.
God is on the loose! As loose as he can be. And a new coup d’état has come to pass. A travesty is underway. It’s unacceptable!
16,421 days, 7 hours and 29 minutes after Bloody Friday began, in another June, a demonstration by Movimento Passe Livre (MPL, the Free Pass Movement) begins in the city of São Paulo, protesting a 20 cent increase in bus, metro and train fares. 15 people are detained. News broadcasts focus on the depredation of newsstands, metro stations and garbage bins in the Avenida Paulista area. MPL accuses Military Police of unnecessary violence. The official response is that force had only been used to clear out traffic on main roads protesters had blocked. That day and on the days that followed, several cases of police brutality were documented and shared on social media. A new typology of state-sponsored aggression and torture grows abundantly clear.
City mayor Fernando Haddad, a member of Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, the Workers’ Party), imputes the destruction that occurred during the protests to “criminals” and claims that “unfortunately, the debate has been hijacked by groups that do not trust in democracy.” For state governor Geraldo Alckmin, an affiliate of Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB, the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy), the blocking of traffic on main roads is a “police issue.”
God is on the loose! Like a fellow who will waddle through any demand, any belief, any rite, any celebration.
All of a sudden, protests escalate across the country, and someone on TV is very confused. A political commentator goes on live to explain what had taken place. They argue whether it all was or wasn’t just about 20 cents.
12 days, 23 hours and 16 minutes after the MPL’s first protest in São Paulo, 2013, governor and mayor convene at state government headquarters Palácio dos Bandeirantes. After the usual greetings, the former, clad in a grey suit, recalls an episode from early that year and makes a remark about the latter’s watch — he’s in a black suit. Despite having said on 6 different occasions that funding could not be sourced for additional subsidies without funneling resources from elsewhere in the budget and that slashing fares at that point would be a populist move, they pull back and cancel the increase. As a result, fare prices would change back from BRL 3.20 to BRL 3.00. By that night, MPL leaders were seen celebrating on a corner of Augusta Street. One of them, clearly euphoric, his reddened face covered in glasses and a mustache-less beard, gestured with his arms up and said, hissing as he touched his upper teeth with his tongue, that all of the past years’ efforts had been justified by that victory. It had become clear that more than just a financial issue, the fare increase was a political one. It is decided that the rally scheduled for the following day will go through as a celebration. Just like in the last few major demonstrations in the city, police were not as strict this time.
937 days and 52 minutes after the 20 cent fare reduction, Military Police performs a Hamburger Kessel — a tactic prohibited by its own rulebook — during a new protest against the annual fare increase. Thousands of demonstrators are cornered in on Paulista Avenue. Looking to concentrate all people within their cordon, officers fire pepper spray, tear-gas bombs, rubber bullets, and strike out with their batons. Those who can, scream, and complete desperation sets the tone. A girl in a white shirt and jeans runs in attempt to flee the brutal confusion and is soon hit by a policeman with a punch to the face.
God is on the loose! It’s true. There’s people in the garden. There’s work on the corner. There’s blood on the sidewalk.
God is on the loose! Right here, in 9 pages, front and back, in carved-out background. Running back and forth from side to side in a crowded delirium.
God is on the loose! In the scalding of the body. From 68 on to the 80s, from 2013 on to now. It’s gruesome. Anywhere.
God is on the loose! A stealthy wrist goes in for the neck.