At dawn on Sunday, a neighborhood in the center of São Paulo, Brazil awoke to a violent and unanticipated onslaught of nearly a thousand police officers, who descended on residents – many of whom were homeless and many of whom use drugs – with dogs, Tasers and rubber bullets. The area had come to be known as Cracolândia (“Crackland”), and the officers had been sent by São Paulo’s Mayor João Doria to destroy one of the world’s exemplary harm reduction programs, De Braços Abertos (“With Open Arms”).

Videos and recounts of the crackdown are horrific: 900 militarized police officers viciously stormed through the area, arresting people suspected of using drugs. They evicted people who had been accessing voluntary treatment services, destroyed tents and temporary housing that had become people’s homes, and even blocked health professionals from providing relief to those harmed in the operation.

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Thumbnail: Flickr CC pixabay ilanwet