On May 23, 2014 police in Niteroi, aided by agents of over 13 police stations in the state of Rio de Janeiro, illegally stormed the building where more than 300 prostitutes work. Approximately 100 were arrested and taken to the police station for questioning. The police prevented lawyers from being present during the questioning. These are the tactics of a military dictatorship. There were reports of rape, robbery, physical and psychological violence and also that the police planted “evidence” in the women’s belongings.
The authorities characterized the neighborhood and work places as a “crime scene”, even though they did not have legal warrants to enter and arrest the women. The “Notice of Prohibition”, tacked up on the doors of the building, said that the partial ban was justified because of there was “confirmation that the site was repeatedly used for committing a crime.” However, the number of the apartment was written on the document at the scene, the same practice that is used for a writ of summons. Summons documents are generic and do not indicate in advance what particular infraction may have been committed.
As can be seen in the pictures, the police broke down the doors of the prostitutes’ work places and living spaces. Afterwards the apartments could no longer be locked and were at risk of robbery—although in many cases the agents had already stolen almost everything—hindering the prostitutes’ work and imperiling the homes of those who also live there.
We heard reports that the police ordered that the doors of the apartments be closed and that they then broke into them, so as to preclude sex work from continuing, to destroy the housing, and deteriorate the condition of the building on floors where women work. Many of the women also reported that after being forced to leave their rooms and brought illegally to the police station, that when they returned they found that their belongings stolen and the apartment doors broken.
What happened was a crime yes! But the crimes were committed by the police and not by the prostitutes!
Here some pictures of the apartments, broken doors and protest signs made and placed in the building the next day.