Protesters in the Brazilian city of Campinas set up barricades of wood and tires Tuesday as they battled military police trying to evict hundreds of people from squatter settlements where they had been living since July, local media reported.
Video images posted online showed fires burning in the southern city of 1.1 million people as government officials moved into the area to remove squatters.
Informal settlements set up by Brazilians who say they have nowhere else to live are not uncommon in Latin America’s largest country, which is suffering from its worst recession on record and a lack of affordable housing.
Residents said they were taken aback by the scale of the police operation that destroyed their shacks made of scrap wood and corrugated iron.
“I do not have anywhere to go,” Juscelino Ribeiro Carneiro Jr., 25 and jobless, told Brazilian news outlet G1. “I’m going to City Hall and I’m going to sleep there.”
Police said they had no choice but to dismantle the illegal camp because residents had been violating the law.
“We have negotiated with the invaders’ representatives exhaustively,” police Colonel Marci Elber told G1 during the eviction.
The confrontation with residents was short, Elber said, and most left voluntarily.
Local media said Campinas city officials sent trucks to the area to help carry the belongings of evicted residents, although it was unclear where they would spend the night.
Brazil faces a deficit of about 7 million homes, according to data from the U.S.-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Poor Brazilians often build makeshift camps in order to have a place to live, but officials say residents need to respect the law and build only in designated areas.