The work of the escrache points to change the relative positions of the members of the community. To analyze this we have to see how is the situation that allows the criminals to hide and the justice to pardon them. In this sense, the escrache is the action that expressed the diagnostic that H.I.J.O.S. realizes of the state of society in regards to ethics. There is a situation similar to uncertainty but more complex. A kind of split of the opinions and judgment that resembles what Diana Taylor describes as “percepticide” for the field of perception. The members of the neighborhood know who that person is, but at the same time, they do not. This is difficult to think in case of a singular person and we would need to start hypothesizing pathological states like Freud’s Verdreigung. However it is simpler to think it at the level of the community. Some people know something, some others know something else, some know about the past of this person, some know about the laws, some have suspicions. But all of these partial knowledges are isolated and not working together. Repression does not cancel knowledge; it makes it un-operative by isolation from other pieces of information, opinion, and action, that would make it worth. In this way, the knowledge is already in the community, but paralyzed and with no consequence.
The escrache changes the positions of the neighbors by bringing together all these knowledges and making them real in the ritual action of putting all together in the public street. In this sense, the performance of the demonstration, that shows people that are willing to risk facing the police to enact what they believe is fair, acquires its maximum strength.
The members of the community find themselves with all these pieces of information, that now are all linked together and, moreover, regarded as true by the action in public. In this sense, what they before only suspected is now confirmed; and what they did not know before and could not ask, has been established as an issue for public discussion. In addition, the neighbors find themselves participating (whether part of the demonstration or from the balconies) in an action that expresses the existence of injustice. So they have the reasons, the permission, and the model for possible collective actions. The resource to claim ignorance of the facts is closed for the neighbors that now have to make a choice about what to do with that knowledge.
The Escrache is a remarkable form of protest against impunity and forgetting, and in favour of collective ethics and knowledge. Although it’s not written in the finest English, this is a good anatomisation of what an escrache is, how it works, and what effect it has particularly on a locality and a community.