Manipulation of event & protest attendance is of course commonplace the world over, with enormous manifestations against the Iraq invasion being a high-profile example of disparity between Media, Police & Organiser estimates. But in recent times Brasil, & specifically the Military Police of São Paulo have taken this practice to a bizarre and implausible extreme.
Could it be pure incompetence? The incentive & motivation to do so is arguably political, given that gatherings of the ostensible “Left” are diminished in Police estimates, while those on the “Right”, which have visible support of the PM, are amplified, as our piece Brasil’s Prescribed Revolt explained.
At times of political uncertainty and especially when the very mandate of President & Government is being questioned, the way these demonstrations are reported is critical.
Yet this distortion has now reached a new nadir, with the reported estimates of attendance for the 2015 São Paulo LGBT Pride Parade.
São Paulo Pride, the biggest in the world, is a credit to the city, drawing in participants from all over Brasil & abroad.
With the event regularly gathering at least 2.5 million (even by the Police’s own figures in 2006) and increasing since, it was shocking then to see published Police estimates of only 20,000 present, a number with absolutely no basis in reality.
Conservative Veja Magazine decided to run with this figure while UOL even reported only 1500 present earlier in the day. AP went with “hundreds of thousands”. Abundantly clear to anyone present was that numbers were higher than the widely reported Pro-Impeachment protest on 15th March, and comparisons between Police estimates of the two quickly became comic.
Pride, while often a platform for political slogans, was perhaps more overt this year, with congress leader Eduardo Cunha targeted in particular, and as is usually the case a small group of PSTU members were present brandishing various placards related to LGBT rights and other current issues, including demilitarisation of the Police.
As Pride wound down, the PM used flash bombs & tear-gas to disperse a group, the latest in a succession of senseless provocations which should shame the São Paulo state government.
Media should be diligent with such numbers, and readers equally so, inside & outside Brasil.