On Thursday, November 19th, Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas was beaten to death by two white security guards at a grocery store in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Camera footage depicts Joao being repeatedly punched in the face while being restrained by another guard. It is thought that another person was present and filming the brutal incident on a mobile phone. Reports reveal that security was called at the Carrefour supermarket in response to a female employee being threatened by a male. What led to the deadly result is unclear. Carrefour has terminated its contract with the security firm that provided the security guards, who have now been arrested. Thursday also happened to be the eve of Black Consciousness Day, a coincidence that fuel
led massive protests and a response from activists.
With the footage widely circulated, many took to Instagram and Twitter to voice their outrage and condemn the murder. This included Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas’ father, who said that “Racism took the person I most loved from me.” The next day, Friday, November 20th, protesters swarmed and ultimately vandalized the Carrefour while others took to Brasilia’s streets. Many carried pointed signs like “Please Stop Killing Us” and “Black Lives Matter.” The Black Lives Matter movement gained significant momentum worldwide following the murder of George Floyd by U.S. police officers in May. The movement was quickly picked up by activists in Brazil who have been struggling against systemic racism in Brazil for years. Last year, police in Brazil killed nearly six times as many people compared to the United States, with an average of five deaths a day. Most of these deaths are youth black men. BBC’s Hugo Bachega claims that these numbers would be alarming if they weren’t in Brazil because people have become conditioned to such violence.
Despite these troubling statistics, Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, denies that racism exists. He echoes the old and popular sentiment that Brazil is a racial democracy where nobody is discriminated against based on their skin colour. Ilona Szabo, an executive director of the Igarapé Institute, tells a very different story. Szabo says that “Police violence [is a] complex way of accepting that some lives matter less than others.” Many protestors and activists share this stance, denouncing Brazil’s racial democracy as an ignorant myth. Archbishop Zanoni Demettino Castro of Feira de Santana addresses this discordance, claiming that there is an anti-racism movement growing in Brazil… but also a significant effort to negate it. Regardless of what you label this social injustice, Thursday’s events make one thing is apparent— change is necessary in Brazil.
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