Universities raided and professors threatened as Brazil elects far-right President

17 universities faced court orders or police raids due to alleged political advertising

Universities across Brazil were raided ahead of last Sunday’s election, with police “questioning professors and confiscating materials belonging to students and professors.”

Ahead of the runoff election, which resulted in far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro elected as President, Brazilian courts ruled that anti-fascist slogans displayed on university campuses were illegal political advertising.

At the Universidade Federal Fluminese (UFF), the federal university of the state of Rio de Janeiro, a banner above the law faculty that read “UFF School of Law – Anti-Fascist”, was deemed by a judge to be “negative electoral propaganda against the candidacy of Jair Balsonaro” despite not naming the candidate, reports the Folha de S.Paulo.

Balsonaro, described by The Guardian as a “far-right, pro-gun, pro-torture populist”, told a campaign rally that he would seek to jail his left-wing opponents and their voters. Bolsonaro become “notorious [in Brazil] for his hostility to black, gay and indigenous Brazilians and to women, as well as for his admiration of dictatorial regimes”.

In response to the removal of the banner, the Folha reported that the Rio de Janeiro chapter of the Brazilian Bar Association had released a statement disavowing the “Electoral Justice decision that try (sic) to censor the freedom of speech of law students and professors.” The banner was replaced by students with a new one which reads “Censored”.

Meanwhile, the offices of the Federal University of Campina Grande Faculty Association were raided by armed police and a professor at the State University of Paraíba was questioned by men “who claimed to be members of the Regional Electoral Court”, after they “[received] a call reporting that she was campaigning for a candidate”, as reported by Brasil de Fato.

President of the University Faculty Association, Nelson Júnior, denied the claim: “She obviously wasn’t. The professor was teaching a class based on a movie and they left”.

Since the election on Sunday, a lawmaker from Balsonaro’s party has established a policy of snitching on dissenting educators. The Guardian reports that Ana Campagnola, a history teacher elected to state legislature in Santa Catarina, launched a campaign to lookout for “indoctrinator teachers”. “A WhatsApp number was provided for students to “film or record any party-political or ideological expressions that humiliate or offend your freedom of faith and conscience”.”

Campagnola runs a YouTube channel and is a vocal supporter of a campaign to remove “ideological, political, or party” discussions from classrooms, describing herself as “anti-snowflake, anti-Marxist and anti-feminist”.

Prior to the election, a raft of further events were banned and material confiscated across Brazil. At UERJ, the state university of Rio de Janeiro, memorial banners for a murdered councilwoman were taken down. In Rio Grande do Sul, an event named “Against Fascism. For Democracy” was banned, as was an event called “Crush Fascism” at the Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados.

At the Universidade do Estado do Pará (UEPA), military police were called to a class on ‘fake news’ after a professor joked about complaints the university had received. Brasil de Foto reported that UEPA professor Daniel Sombra said “the incident sets a clear precedent against university autonomy… and is an attack to freedom of thought.”

The New York Times reported that thousands had protested the interventions. An Associated Press report stated that “Rosa Maria Weber, who heads Brazil’s top electoral court, said there were “possible excesses” in the raids of at universities” and that “Brazil’s Attorney-General Raquel Dodge opened an investigation into what she called exaggerations.”

The O Globo newspaper reported that at least 17 universities had been raided.