Luiz Cláudio Silva and his wife Maria da Penha are both members of the Association of Residents of Vila Autódromo. They are prominent figures in their community, as they led the resistance against forced evictions ahead of the Olympic Games in August 2016.
Vila Autódromo is a favela in the west of Rio de Janeiro, on the edge of the Olympic Park. In mid-2015 the police tried to force residents to leave their homes, as Olympic developers were planning to build facilities in that area and wanted to remove the favela to hide poverty from the visitors' eyes. Most of the original 650 families who were living Vila Autódromo were paid to leave and they were relocated in other suburbs, far away from the city centre.
In some cases, evictions turned violent and there were clashes with the police. Dona Penha herself was assaulted during one eviction and municipal guards broke her nose. Since the evictions started, the human rights defenders have experienced humiliation, surveillance, harassment and physical attacks.
Luiz Cláudio and Maria da Penha are part of a small group of 20 families who peacefully resisted and remained in the community. After lengthy negotiations with the authorities, they were allowed to stay but had to accept reconstruction works in their area. Their home was destroyed by the bulldozers in March 2015 and they currently live in a shipping container, awaiting the completion of the re-urbanization project.
In May 2016, the human rights defenders and other community members launched an open air museum, the Museu das Remoções, or Evictions Museum. Using materials left behind the demolitions, Vila Autódromo's residents built seven memorials to honour the houses destroyed. In front of the Catholic Church, one of the few buildings left standing, they also built an Olympic torch made of debris.