Press release, Brasilia 18 April 2000:
On 17 April, the International Day against Impunity the Pillar of Shame, created by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot, was erected on the Square of Tree Powers in the Bazilian capital. The mounting of the sculpture in Brasilia was attended by members of the MST (the landless peasants movement) and MPs of the opposition bloc. The Pillar was thought as an appeal to the ‘three powers’ (Government, Parliament and Supreme Court) to comply with the principle of ‘justice and equality for the law’.
In fact, it seem like a ‘miracle’ that the contentious sculpture could be set up in these Easter days. Initially conceived as a donation to the Brazilian parliament, the Pillar of Shame has been met with exacerbated resistance from the right wing and sections of the government. A right wing party has even sent a false denunciation to the tax authorities in Rio de Janeiro saying that illegal technical equipment was hidden in the sculpture. According to liable sources, the Minister of Justice has urged the press not to mention the Pillar, arguing that: "this sculpture will never be set up in front of the Brazilian Parliament."
But now it is standing there as a sculptural outcry, eight metres in height, testifying that justice and equality for the law is still not wielding in the young Brazilian democracy. The Pillar is a commemoration of the 19 landless peasants who were killed by the military police in the northern state of Pará on 17 April 1996. Four years after those politically responsible have still not been brought to justice.
"We are not celebrating this day – we are remembering", senator Heloísa Helena (PT, Workers’ Party) stated at the inauguration of the Pillar of Shame, and pursued: "Our memory is giving us the strength to struggle against the sway of the economical and political elite in our country, a leadership that is decadent, incompetent and insensitive. With this sculpture the MST and you will go up against the cowardly landlords who are killing – murdering – causing pain hunger and suffering – for the Brazilian people. Therefore, the entire nation is thanking you."
"The site where this monument has been erected is called ‘The Square of the Three Powers’. Here Presidency, Parliament and Supreme Court have been placed together (……) but their parties do not come down here, because they are the ones responsible for impunity and poverty in this country", Gilberto Portes, a spokesman of the MST said, thanking the Danish sculptor for setting up the Pillar of Shame.
The Pillar will remain on its site in front of the Parliament until Tuesday evening, 18 April. Then it will be carried to the northern city of Belém, that has just been the scene of fierce scuffles between landless peasants and the police. The violent events took place in connection with a demonstration commemorating the Eldorado massacre. The police shot into the crowd and split the demonstration with tear gas.
It is still unknown whether the violent confrontation will have an impact on the mounting of the Pillar in Belém. However, in co-operation with the mayor, Edmilson Brito Rodrigues a central square has been provided for the sculpture.
Contact Jens Galschiot in Belém:
Hotel Regente – Tel: +55 91 241 1222 – Fax: +55 91 242 0343 – Room 340 or 335.