A Brazilian YouTube star distributed 14,000 LGBTQ-themed books for free at Rio de Janeiro’s international book fair in protest of censorship efforts by the city’s mayor.
Mayor Marcelo Crivella, a conservative evangelical Christian, had attempted to pull the graphic novel Avengers: The Children’s Crusade from the Rio International Book Biennial because it prominently features a same-sex kiss, which he called inappropriate for children. He first said that book and others with LGBTQ content should be wrapped in black plastic and come with a warning label, then ordered city inspectors to seize copies of Avengers. But it had apparently sold out by the time he gave the latter order Friday, The Guardian reports.
In response, Felipe Neto, an actor and writer who has 34 million YouTube subscribers, bought all the copies of major LGBTQ-themed books being sold at the festival, totaling about 14,000, and gave them out Saturday to anyone who wanted one. In a move mocking Crivella’s initial order, the books were encased in black plastic and bore the note “This book is inappropriate for backwards, outdated, and bigoted people,” according to Pink News. Among the titles were Call Me by Your Name, Boy Erased, Southernmost, and Love, Simon.
Neto said Crivella’s attempt at censorship was symptomatic of the political climate in Brazil since outspoken homophobe Jair Bolsonaro became president this year. “Although we [are] going through the most frightening government in terms of repression since the dictatorship, this time we have a united and engaged people who will not permit that censorship, the imposition of others’ moral values,” Neto told The Guardian.
There was some support for the mayor, as evangelical Christians have gained significant political power in Brazil, but many others in the country joined Neto in acts of protest. Folha de São Paulo, Brazil’s largest newspaper, featured the kiss image from Avengers on its front page. Several exhibitors at the book fair promoted their LGBTQ-themed books as “books prohibited by Crivella.” Numerous celebrities spoke out against the mayor’s action. And Sunday Brazil’s Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision that had allowed removal of the book, saying a “democratic regime believes in an environment of free movement of ideas,” The Washington Post reports.
“We think Rio has things that are lot more dangerous than books,” Lidiane Rodrigues, manager of Comix, the store selling Avengers at the book fair, told the Post. “Assaults, drugs, gangs — there are a lot of things more dangerous than a book here.”