I sued a congressman supporter of Brazil’s fascist president Jair Bolsonaro… and I won!
Last year, state congressman Douglas Garcia, one of the main allies of Brazilian far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, asked his followers on Twitter to send him the data of anti-fascist activists (in short, any activist opposed to his president’s government). On June 2, Garcia proudly posted a video on his Twitter with (blurry) images of the list he would have compiled with data from hundreds of so-called antifascists or “antifas”.
On June 4, another video of the congressman holding what seems to be hundreds of pages of paper announcing that he would make police reports against the “antifas” on the list — which would then be handed over to the Federal Police. He again asked his followers to send him names of dangerous “terrorists”. The videos can be removed from Twitter at any time after a decision by Judge Ana Paula Furlan, of the São Paulo Court of Justice, who, on September 14, considered that they could cause irreparable damage to those who had their data disclosed.
The 999-page list and the names of hundreds of activists and journalists ended up circulating through WhatsApp groups, putting the lives of those who had their data (such as address and phone number) leaked at risk. On the same fateful June 4th, Garcia went on Twitter again to deny that he had any connection with the list circulating on social media.
A few days later, on August 10, Garcia was convicted in a first lawsuit to award 20,000 reais to a woman whose name was on the list — other lawsuits against him are being tried. The issue has echoed among the Brazilian far-right. For instance, congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s son, announced that he had handed over the dossier to the U.S. embassy. There is also another dossier, this one conceived by the Ministry of Justice, with the names of 579 activists, congressmen, civil servants and teachers targeting a group known as “anti-fascist police officers” in a classic act of political espionage.
The release of yet another political dossier against activists opposed to the government caused the Supreme Court to decide, on August 20, to ban the Ministry of Justice from producing any new reports of the kind that clearly instincts to pursue and intimidate.
The thousands of people included in the two dossiers have committed no crime aside from being left-wing, human right supporters and opposing, in different degrees, the far-right (or even openly fascist, as experts point out) government of Jair Bolsonaro, and have thus become targets of persecution and threats. Journalists are also targets — both of the dossiers, and of threats on social media made by supporters of the president.
Garcia iswell-known amongst São Paulo’s far-right, gaining notoriety still in 2017 for taking part in a protest against American philosopher Judith Butler in which he praised a local fascist group, the Carecas do ABC, later claiming to have invited the fascist group to the protest. In 2018 he was featured in a news piece at Folha de São Paulo’s newspaper on how he, a former Worker’s Party supporter, had become a right-wing community leader and about the carnival group “DOPS basement” he had created, in reference to the basement of the Department of Political and Social Order, where left-wing activists were tortured during the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964–1985).
In the same year he was elected for the São Paulo’s House of Representatives as a member of Jair Bolsonaro’s former party, the Social Liberal Party (PSL), with 74,000 votes. From then on his most notable achievement was being expelled from the same party in July for his involvement in attacks against the Supreme Court and for the investigation of members of his office in a probe against Fake News.
My name is in one of the lists, and for that reason I decided to sue Douglas Garcia — who, in turn, is suing me for calling him, on Twitter, a fascist due to his political stances and the far-right groups with which he has close contact — a further attempt at intimidation and an attack on press freedom.
As if it was not enough to have my data illegally disclosed, they were disclosed by someone with connections to dangerous hate groups. And we know that the far right has international connections as well, so even living outside Brazil, I have reason to worry about my safety — as of my friends and family who remain in the country.
Garcia is just another government ally threatening opponents. In recent weeks, the Secretary of Culture and former actor Mario Frias threatened opposition congressman Flávio Serafini to use the Federal Police to persecute him. Days before, he also threatened humorist Marcelo Adnet for having ridiculed him on Twitter. The government even used the Twitter profile of the Secretariat of Communication to attack the comedian as well.
Along with the numerous threats against the press and even cases of aggression against press professionals we can see a worrying picture where government agents create political lists, threaten opponents, attack and even harm the careers of those who dare to stand up against the Bolsonaro government while promoting unprecedented fake news campaigns to the point where a network sustained by members of the government to attack opponents, the Office of Hate, is being investigated by the Supreme Court and a bill against Fake News is being debated in Congress — even though it is a bill that will potentially have the opposite effect to that expected.
In one of his videos Garcia declares: “I will not rest, I will not rest until I see each one of you in jail, ok?” He also calls left-wing activists and journalists terrorists, vandals and criminals and he explicit threats of using his political power as congressman to persecute his enemies and, as he preaches, throw them in jail. He makes no efforts to hide his agenda to intimidate and persecute left-wing activists and journalists. Being anti-fascist is not a crime. It is not terrorism. Nor is being a journalist a crime.
How else could a congressman who supports a government whose former Secretary of Culture repeated a speech by Goebbels be called? That praises Polish fascist movements on Twitter? Whose top leader posed next to a man dressed as Hitler? Who openly defends the arrest and destruction of an entire political camp — exactly the one that opposes fascism?
The fact is that the congressman accused me and hundreds of activists of a series of serious crimes, such as of being terrorists, but it is clear that it’s precisely the supporters of the president and, allegedly, members of his own family who are supporters and part of criminal gangs and armed militias in Rio de Janeiro.
Garcia’s list is nothing more than political and ideological persecution with imputation of non-existent crimes and threats with the aim of intimidating activists and journalists, of silencing human rights and left-wing activists and also the press carried out through virtual militias disseminating Fake News.
Yet, the repercussion of the case, amidst so many accusations of corruption and crimes involving the Bolsonaro family and allies — in addition to the fires in the Pantanal, the immense economic crisis affecting the country and, above all, the Covid-19 pandemic — has fallen short of its gravity.
However, this is a further demonstration of the character that permeates the Bolsonaro government. If this is not a harbinger of the advance of a fascist movement, then nothing else is.
And, after a long wait I was informed by my lawyer that we won. Douglas Garcia will have to pay me 10 thousand reais as compensation for having disclosed my data. It’s a small victory in the face of fascism, but still an important one.
I join the select group of people who had their data leaked so Garcia could intimidate and frighten us, and who defeated the bolsominion congressman in court. It’s no use trying to intimidate us, we will go all the way to crush Bolsonarism on each and every front.