Meet the British Grandfather Who Taught Brazil’s Riot Police How to Fight
The Brazilian police don’t have the best reputation when it comes to dealing with their public. Mostly because their way of doing so seems to involve a lot of firing tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters. Understandably, that’s not an image Brazil’s government is keen to maintain; hyper-violent police are pretty embarrassing, especially when the world’s media is watching. So ahead of the World Cup—which Brazilian protesters weren’t best pleased about—they decided to do something about it.
Steve Costello, a 72-year-old grandfather of 11 from Bolton, has been teaching karate in Brazil for 20 years. In the mid-1990s he was recruited to teach police non-violent suppression techniques, presumably so they could deal with threats without adding to theiralready massive civilian death toll. Ahead of the World Cup he was asked to give Sao Paulo’s riot police a few lessons in his brand of karate. I gave him a call to see how that went.
VICE: Hi Steve. So how did you get into training Brazilian riot police karate?
Steve Costello: It first started in 1996. I was the first English instructor to do a karate course in Curitiba, a city on the coast. I was teaching kids, but the chief of the riot police was present. He asked me to do a training session with the police forces, and after that I got invited over to Brazil on several occasions to train with the Command Operations Elite, the mounted police, firemen and the state cavalry troops. There were also a lot of training sessions organized with the military police in Curitiba and other cities. They even invited the riot police over from São Paolo to Curitiba to join the sessions.
What was it they wanted to learn?
I taught them the technique of Ryūkyū karate, which basically employs the use of pressure points, grabs and restraints when fighting against an armed opponent. It’s more about controlling and defusing a situation efficiently with minimum injuries on both sides, rather than turning to the use of lethal weapons.
Is that so different to what they usually do?
Ryūkyū karate is a combat style, but it’s based on street survival. The police commanders who saw my training liked the fact that it’s less violent than other techniques. You give your opponent bruises, but you don’t seriously hurt them. During the year leading up to the World Cup I even taught the cavalry techniques of how to survive in close combat, in case they have to fight on the ground. When I was growing up in Manchester as a young boy I naturally got into fights with the Teddy Boys and the skinheads, which taught me to be street wise.
Did you use any weapons during the training?
Yes. The police used a certain type of baton to defend themselves against knives—small pieces of wood that can be extended with a telescopic button.
“It was like a David Lynch movie through the prism of Satan’s asshole. The anti-Galápagos. Darwin in reverse.”
Watch Snake Island, Part Two
"Place is fucked. No one is allowed there for a reason. Don’t ever go."
We went to Snake Island
"Place is fucked. No one is allowed there for a reason. Don’t ever go."
We went to Snake Island, which is exactly what it sounds like: An island off the coast of Brazil that’s full of deadly snakes who can “liquefy your insides” with one bite.
Watch Snake Island, Part 1
Watch the New Episode of VICE on HBO for Free on YouTube
Are you one of those people who tweets us every weekend asking why we don’t post our HBO show online for free? If you are, you do realize that HBO is the best television network in the world, right? And, as such, can demand a premium for a lineup that may be the only reason to still have a subscription to cable, correct?
Well, either way, you’ve worn us down with your largely unreasonable demands, and HBO is streaming the season 2 premiere of VICE on YouTube for FREE. You can watch it on YouTube, before or after you finish binge-watching the entirety of season 1 for free right here on VICE.com.
How fucking awesome is that? It’s awesome, and you’re welcome, but all of this is only happening for a limited time so you better get cracking before we have to take them off the internet. Which reminds us, just subscribe to HBO already. It’s worth it, we swear.
The Brazilian Slum Children Who Are Literally Swimming in Garbage
The Brazilian city of Recife is known for its majestic bridges, but in November a newspaper photo highlighted one of the metropolis’s uglier aspects. Published in the Jornal do Commercio, the picture showed a nine-year-old kid named Paulo Henrique submerged in a garbage-filled canal beneath one of those famous bridges, picking cans out of the filthy water so he could sell them.
According to government estimates, some 6,500 children live in the slums in the Arruda and Campina Barreto neighborhoods on Recife’s north side. Many of them wade through garbage to eke out a living just as Paulo does, but it was only after his image appeared in the press that the local government and international authorities took notice of their plight. In response to the photo and the accompanying article, the government promised to place Paulo, his mother, and his five siblings on welfare.
Rio’s Anarchists Rioted in Support of Teachers
The idea of anarchists rioting their angry hearts out on behalf of schoolteachers is a pretty weird one, but that’s exactly what happened in Rio on Monday. Educators working in the city’s municipal school system have been on strike since August 8, demanding improved career options and salaries. In response, Mayor Eduardo Paes formed a commission to discuss how to deal with the demands of the teachers, who said they’d remain on strike until the government announced their plans on October 1.
The city’s proposal was, of course, crap, and would only have benefited around seven percent of the city’s teachers. So, the day the bill was up for a vote, the teachers met at city hall—where the ballot was taking place behind closed doors—and tried to smash their way into the building.
Things got out of hand. In footage that made its way onto the internet afterward, riot police were seen attacking old ladies. Other cops were caught planting incriminating evidence. One member of Rio’s notoriously volatile law enforcement squad took to Facebook to post a picture of a broken police stick, with the caption “foi mal, fessor” (or “too bad, teach”).
The media, sympathizers on social networks, and the anarchist black blocs have not forgiven the mistakes the cops made that day, so a pro-teacher rally was called for this Monday. Setting off from Rio Branco Avenue in downtown Rio, an estimated 50,000 people made their way back to city hall. Again, protesters tried to break their way into the building and again the whole thing ended up in a huge violent confrontation with Rio police. Protesters used sticks, stones, and Molotov cocktails. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets. Though the march had started peacefully, by the time the dust had settled one officer was seriously injured, tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage was done, and 18 protesters were arrested.
And some buses were on fire. In Brazil, the buses always get it bad.
Weirdly, the city hall—which, along with local banks and consulates, bore the brunt of the damage—was undefended at the time the protest march reached it. This has sparked conspiratorial rumors that the city wanted the protesters to do as much damage as possible in order to get public opinion back on their side.
For now, the teachers remain on strike and it’s likely they’ll be back on to the streets sometime soon.
VICE Loves Magnum: David Alan Harvey
David Alan Harvey discovered his love for photography at an early age and was talented enough to turn that love into a career. He first received recognition for his 1967 black-and-white self-published book, Tell It Like It Is, which documented the life of a poor family in Norfolk, Virginia, and he followed that up by traveling the world for years, shooting forNational Geographic and picking up the Magazine Photographer of the Year award from the National Press Photographer’s Association in 1978. He became a full-time member of the Magnum family relatively late in his career, in 1997.
Since then, he has continued to photograph all over the place as well as highlight the work of others via his web magazine and publishing house, burn. His new book, (based on a true story), is a beguiling visual story that acts as a sort of Rubik’s cube with pictures that can be placed in different orders. I caught up with him to chat about his secrets on life and photography.
From the book Divided Soul
VICE: I’ve read that you started shooting at a really early age.
David Alan Harvey: Yes. Lightning kind of struck when I was a kid. I mean, I was 11 or 12 and light bulbs just went off. So yeah, that was a lucky break—not just for photography, but for life in general, right? I had something to focus on early, so it kind of kept me out of trouble. Although, not completely [laughs].
Do you remember what originally attracted you to photography?
Well, I had polio when I was a child, so I was in an isolation ward in a hospital at the age of six. I was seriously in, like, solitary confinement because polio was a greatly feared disease at that time. The only thing I had going for me was that my grandmother and my mother would send me books to read and magazines with pictures, so that was my escape—books, magazines, a combination of literature and pictures. Pictures were in my life in a very real way early on. At some point, I got a camera—probably like every other kid did—but I also got a darkroom and I realized that I could do anything with a camera.
Rio de Janeiro, from the book (based on a true story)
Were there specific photographers whose work you enjoyed at the time?
I actually started looking at the work of European artists. I wasn’t too interested in 99 percent of American photographers, but I really enjoyed European art—the French Impressionists, for example, and the Italian and Dutch painters. All of these people really influenced me early on, just in the way that I looked at stuff.
The people I liked were those who were able to do something with nothing—painters, writers, and photographers. I looked into photography and I saw that there were sports photographers who needed an Olympian, fashion photographers who needed a model, and war photographers who needed a war. [Henri] Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, and [Marc] Riboud and those guys—they didn’t need anything. They would just look out the window or go to the garden.
In other words, the everyday life situation became a gold mine for these artists, and I gravitated towards the fact that you could take something right next to you and turn it into art or communication. I liked the integrity of journalism but I was always interested in photographs. Photographs didn’t have to communicate a great concept, they could just be.
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