I was Brazil woman pepper-sprayed in face, says protester

23-year-old says she faced 'psychological torture' from military police after being arrested

Click to follow
The Independent US

She became the face of the protests sweeping Brazil. A young woman with a polka-dotted bag who was pepper-sprayed at close range by a policeman in a crash helmet on a Rio de Janeiro street.

Now a woman has come forward to say it was her in the picture, reveal her ordeal at the hands of the police after being arrested - and urge her fellow citizens to continue to take to the streets to protest.

Liv Nicolsky Lagerblad de Oliveira, 23, says she faced "psychological torture" from the military police after being arrested and was only released after paying a fine of 2000 reals (£579).

She added: "I urge everyone else who can go to protest. I hope it becomes bigger than any individual."

Her comments came amid attempts by organisers to get a million people on the streets of dozens of cities across Brazil tonight, Thursday, in what would be the biggest night yet of protests.

The protests that have swept Brazil this month were sparked by anger at a 20-centavos (six pence) rise in bus fares. Those increases have now largely been revoked - including in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro - but the protests have also encompassed anger at poor public services.

They come as Brazil is hosting the eight-team Confederations Cup, traditionally seen as a warm-up for next year's World Cup, which the country is also hosting at a cost of many billions.

The iconic picture was taken by Associated Press photographer Victor R. Caivano on Monday night, as police struggled to cope with a quarter of a million protesters in cities across Brazil.

It was published on the homepage of independent.co.uk on Tuesday and on the front page of The Independent print edition on Wednesday among papers across the world.

On her Facebook page, Miss Oliveira confirmed to friends that it was her in the picture and said: "At the police station, what happened to me was a kind of psychological torture.

The poet and artist, who attended Rio de Janeiro's Federal University, said she was pressured by the police into signing paperwork without fully understanding what it was.

"To get out of there, I signed papers that I do not know exactly what they were," she said. "The police assaulted me like they assault all protesters." She added: "The police are violent and cruel here. The state is violent and cruel here. And the citizen is at their mercy."

Talking about her concerns about Rio's transformation, Miss Oliveira added: "The city is being gentrified. The poor can no longer afford to live in some favelas and the elite is taking their place.

"The cost of life is increasing and the increase in bus fare was just the last straw."

She added: "No state will ever represent me. President Dilma does not represent me even though I voted for her, considering her the least worst of the viable options.

"I don't agree with the nationalistic thinking that perpetuates itself. I think we are all citizens of the world before belonging to this or that country."

Miss Oliveira added: "I protested peacefully but not passively. My face was plastered in the newspapers meaning I can't go out unscathed now.

"But I urge everyone else who can go to go. I hope it becomes bigger than any individual."

Previously, a Rio police spokesman had said: "There is absolutely no justification for two police officers to behave like this. Now we have to look at the context as well."