“We wanted to protest, and also to call attention to our situation with those in power,” said Rudinei Gomes, Vila Autodromo’s resident who participated to the #OcupaVilaAutódromo cultural festival this satudray.
The space which was rapidly filling with people was a church until quite recently, when it was ripped to the ground. The crumbling walls which were still left made an ideal spot for a photo exhibition of violent clashes between the remaining residents of Vila Autodromo and municipal guards in June, where many were left bloody and bruised.
And the flattened church became an impromptu spot for music, protests and the sale of artisan goods in support of the community this Saturday.
Those who are still clinging on to their homes have had to get used to living in what resembles a war zone.
“They are closing in on us. The commercial buildings have all gone. Just to get bread now, we have to get a taxi. They took out our neighbour’s house, and that has affected the walls of our house. Even access to the community is difficult now. ” said Maria de Gracas, 26.
Residents have gradually been evicted to make way for Olympics-related development and a through road for the media centre for the games.
They believe the land is wanted for expensive property development.
Generations of families have lived in Vila Autodromo, but the community is now being torn down bit by bit. Of the original 500 families, some have accepted compensation for their homes, while others still have gone to nearby apartments – yet about 100 families remain and have vowed to continue fighting what they see as unfair intimidation tactics by the municipal authorities, and often unfair compensatory sums.
Even as recently as this month, City Hall promised that some residents would be able to stay. Many are sceptical however, as despite winning legal rights to stay on the land as far back as 1993, evictions have steadily continued.
“I’ve lived here for 26 years, I’ve got seven children and three grandchildren. It’s safe here – there are no drug gangs, and everyone knows everyone. If one of my children is playing at the other end of the community, someone will call me and tell me,” said Maria Evanildo, 40, explaining why she has no intention of leaving Vila Autodromo.
The evictions in Rio are the subject of our film “The Fighter”, which tells the story of Naomy, a 12-year-old girl who lives there.
Along with other events on Saturday, the film was screened. Women and girls from the community also formed a drum band and marched through the community.
For those who attended, it was a chance to show solidarity with those who are still resisting evictions in Vila Autodromo.
The fight may be over for some, but with less than a year to go til the Olympics, those who are staying are determined not to give in.