Vanessa Rosa, the author of this post, is an artist based in São Paulo.
This is a story of an alleged attempt to create dialogues between opposite worlds: street art, and one of the world’s most oppressive police forces.
In November of 2016, the same terrifying week that Trump conquered the presidency of the USA, a project called Choque Festival brought street art to the headquarters of a São Paulo military police squad. The plan was to cover the walls of this police station with murals (some of the murals are on exterior walls, but the walls are all inside a gated space that is not open to the public). According to some media and the Festival’s official Facebook page (since deleted from Facebook and Instagram) the event was intended to open an artist-driven dialogue between police and citizens, an artist-driven initiative to make the police recognize the importance of street painting. Other times, it’s been described as part of the military police’s community outreach activities, a police initiative, a festival that would also present other police projects, like kids with disabilities participating in equine-assisted therapy with police horses. When it was first announced, the project received praise in both progressive and conservative media. And although one curator/artist/producer appears front and center in all the videos and articles, with little visibility of other participants, the project did manage to involve several people from street painting scene in Brazil. But things went sour, with artists dropping out and graffiti writers taking aim at those who did participate. What the hell happened?