Airton Barreto: Lawyer to the Poor (Part 1)

Uploaded by mylesandrew19 on 14.01.2010

My name is Airton Barreto, I am 58 years old
I am a lawyer, married, with three kids
I came to live in Fortaleza (Brazil) when I was 15
Today, I am part of an NGO
an international NGO, The Emaus Movement
an entity that was born in France in 1949
and today is present in 48 countries
The truth is that when I finished law school 26 years ago
I made a choice to live with the poor.Me and two friends.
Later our community became a group of friends
we were 9 people living in the same house looking for the same ideals.
Our work in the slum (favela) was to organize the community
to interfere in things we thought were interesting.
First we went to experience, to live, we didn't know what would happen.
As a newcomer to the slum I saw people who were full of bruises, with blows,
suffering the violence of the police.
Later I found out that many mothers lost their sons, killed by police.
Because there were small groups in the favela we called the 'death squads'.
Usually these death squads were organized by former police officers,
civil or military, and current police officers
who pay the police to eliminate people who do petty thefts
or have a negative influence in the favela.
Around 9 o'clock in the morning,
I opened the door of our house
a small house, simple, of the people
When I open the door, I see two policemen passing by my house.
He came to me and said, "Out of the way so I can enter your house."
And I said, "This is my home, do you have a court order to enter my house?"
He said, "Court order in the house of a bum?"And he hit me.
I fell, he entered my house
and the one that hit me looked for something to incriminate me.
He was looking for some criminal element, perhaps looking for drugs or something.
And the other cop tells me to put my hands on my head.
I said: "I will not put my hands on my head, I am a citizen,
I'm inside my house, you cannot do that"
He said: "Shut up!"
- How can I shut my mouth? You invade my home and tell me to shut up?
Then put your hand on your head!- I will not!
So shut up!- I will not shut up!
That was the discussion. Then he said this:
"Show your documents!"
Then I got the Brazilian Bar Association card and said that I am a lawyer.
He grabs his wallet and says: "How you can you be a lawyer and live in the favela?"
"You're a drug dealer"
He takes me by the arms, above, leads me to the inside of my home
and puts his knee on this part of my stomach and pushes me against the wall.
And he says: "You cannot be a lawyer, you're a drug dealer"
And I was almost breathless, could no longer speak.
When he saw that I was loose with the forces and that I had not eaten anything
he released me and said: "Why do you live here?"
So I almost breathless, almost speechless said:
"I live in national territory, it is my right as a Brazilian citizen to live where I want"
Police: But you are not a lawyer, cannot be a lawyer and live in this garbage.
Then I got my documents and showed where I worked
worked with the church as an advocate of human rights
And he said he did not believe me
He had reason not to believe because
the university in which we come from prepared us to be the best
to be rich, to be competing to be the best
never for you to be
perhaps to have more, but never to be more.
and the university did not prepare us for this universe.
Vila Velha 4 is a subhuman place
There you find the marriage of human degradation and environmental degradation
around 2 or 3 thousand families living miserably
the rates of tuberculosis, AIDS, hunger, skin diseases
We have a small space there to care, what we do there?
I listen to the problems of the community.
This mural is saying that justice should be blind
She should be...not blind..she should be...
It was when I arrived in the neighborhood Pirambu and heard of Airton,
the lawyer who lives in the favela
and this aroused curiosity to know the lawyer who lived in the favela and helped people
One day, I made an appointment with him, I explained my curiosity
I thought it interesting to know the work he did and why he did that work in the community
because until then no one saw a person trained in social work advocacy for people in the favela
The favela is a place of loss
who lives in the favela, the first thing he loses is the dignity of the citizen
you are no longer a citizen, you becomes a slumdweller, marginal
you lose your identity
when people live in the countryside, in the interior, they have a name, a reference
when people arrive to the favela, they cut those references
and I realized, when I was living there, that I felt lost too.
My husband is in the hospital, you understand?
He stopped smoking, stopped drinking, stopped everything.
We had no food, he wasn't eating anything.
We got a car to bring him there...and now he is being taken care of.
He worked a lot...very hard...worked the bakery.
- How many kids do you have?
I had 10
- How many died?
A pair of twins, then the last Rosianne, and those two.
The biggest suffering I've had is my daughter, Rosianne.
Drug addict. She tries to kill me, she sells everything inside the house, she sells the food, she sells everything!
And I am at the bottom of the barrel.
What are the problems of the community that we hear?
Many, prisons: there are illegal detention and imprisonments
labor problems: people who worked at a company many years
and have not received their rights
pension right: they arrive at an age and want to retire
alimony: the father goes away and leaves the children with their mothers, without any right
we have diverse problems, diverse.
And I said: "I already showed my documents,
I already said where I worked, I don't know why you need to interrogate me more"
and he was silent, it was as if I had convinced the police
the other who had hit me and was looking for something to set me up
didn't like this attitude of the police being silent
he pulls his gun and comes
to my face
then he puts the gun in my face, the revolver
so when I saw the gun in my mouth I saw death, I saw that I had no exit
and this very serious police officer with the gun leads me to the other side of the wall
and once there he cocked the gun and puts it back again,
then you are on the point of a gun, and armed with a trigger your life is for a second
so this time I started getting shaky
and the police said to me:
"You, answer me why you live here or I will burst your brains, blow your head off"
I started to cry because I saw that death was going on
and I said, I live here because I learned that Jesus lived with the poor, that's how I learned
I had no other words to say because I had spoken of my choice and my work as a lawyer
Then he dropped the gun and said: "You're crazy! "
"Let the police work, because you do not let the police work, you're mad" and leaves.
And I felt powerless to get up, I thought I had died.
At this moment I began to realize how many people,
how many poor people go through what I went through
subjected to violence, are beaten, are killed and do nothing
Why did the police do this to me? Or do this to the poor?
Because what you are is where you live,what you are is how you dress
If you dress well everyone treats you well,
if you dress like the poor, malodorous, with torn clothes, old or dirty, you're that.
I'm going now to pick up a sick woman from Vila Velha [from the hospital].
Ms. Simone, someone we need to assist now.
with money for everything I need...transportation
- Do you have a family here?
I have one, but they don't help me.
- How many kids?
[I was] sick when I was going for treatment, wanting to faint.
Because sometimes I don't have food to eat.
- And the people that are helping you are...?Only those two!
Mr. Airton is like an angel of God in my life.
I don't know what would happen if it was not for him.
I lived in 2 rooms, then bought the material to add another 2 and a bathroom,
because the urine was almost spilling onto their feet.
I have a neighbor who is doing it for me for free.
But even with all the help of Dr. Airton, the house is still missing cement and sand.
- How old are you?
Look at my hand! It was not like that. It was normal. Now it's like this.
- What did the doctor say?
He said it's arthritis.
- Do you work?
No, I couldn't manage.
I can't manage to do anything.
- Do you have a husband?
No...I also have an accelerated heart.
So it's just you and your children in your home? Does anyone have work?
My oldest daughter always works, when she can.
So your family survive on one salary?
With their help and the help of Bolsa Familia.