World Cup protest – flames and fear
Sao Paulo, Brazil
By Nacho Doce
I heard a loud scream and turned to see a Volkswagen Beetle on fire just a few meters away. I was covering the year’s first demonstration against the 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo’s Roosevelt Square. The protesters’ slogan was, “The money spent on stadiums could give the country better education and health.” There were more than 2,000 people marching, many of whom belonged to the Black Bloc.
I ran to the burning car along with other colleagues and demonstrators, and inside I saw two woman and a young girl. I managed to shoot four pictures of their expressions of fear and panic while the driver and others helped them to escape from the fire.
I continued to photograph one of the women who ran with the girl, her daughter, in her arms.
All the while, the child was holding a half-eaten wooden skewer of meat, which must have been her dinner.
She was so tense that she hung onto the skewer, with no chance of letting go.
Once the panic subsided, I became angry. I wondered who had set the car on fire and put a family at great risk. My gut reaction was to grab two of the protesters, show them the photos, and tell them they should find whoever did that. I just couldn’t believe that someone would set a car on fire with a family inside.
My doubts continued and I held the pictures without transmitting until a colleague, who had seen it all, explained the events. He said the driver had tried to speed past the fire barrier that demonstrators had laid to block the road, and a mattress that was among the burning objects got caught in the undercarriage of the car. It was the last picture I sent that night as I searched for confirmation of what happened. A little later I listened to a local TV channel blame the demonstrators for directly setting fire to the car. That made me doubt my own information, but the next day another TV journalist interviewed the Beetle’s driver, who confirmed my version. To send a picture with a misleading caption would be a serious mistake. It took valuable time to confirm the facts, but it was necessary.
We later learned that the car was a huge loss for the family, as the father used it for transporting goods – his main source of income. The protest organizers have since announced they are collecting money to replace it.