In November 2020, a mass sharing of photos and a video circulated on social media of a security guard beating a black man to death in a supermarket. The horrendous video showed two white security guards and an employee taking a black man to the parking lot. A conversation, which was shown on the camera, led to the black man punching one of the security guards in the face. It then showed the two security guards punching back, eventually leading to beating the black man to death, with the black man moaning and struggling to breathe. On November 27 2020, it was revealed to CNN news Brazil that the altercation happened in a supermarket located in the Passo D’Areia. The victim of the altercation was a 40-year old João Alberto Silveira Freit, a father of two.
The two security officers whose names were not disclosed to the public had not been charged but instead had their contract suspended with the security team, and the manager attending the shift fired. The attorney for the security guard stated that his client intended to not kill Freit but contain him. The police chief investigator currently investigating the case noted that Freit had died due to suffocation, which had been confirmed from The General Institute of Forensic, confirming it was due to asphyxiation. Freit’s father called it a murder. Professor Thiago Amparo of Racial Justice and Law lab at the Getúlio Vargas University states that “When Freitas’ death happened, it occurred in a society more mobilized around structural racism.” Bystanders were shown in the video passively standing and watching the altercation unfold.
João Alberto Silveira Freit died on Black Consciousness Day, an official holiday that honours the nation’s African heritage. Structural racism is a current prominent issue in Brazil, with waves of protest being dismissed by President Jair Bolsonaro as “foreign tensions” and even once claiming that he is “colour-blind.” According to São Paulo-based research group, half of Brazil’s population is black and mixed-race, yet they end up making 79% of the victims killed by law enforcement in the country. In addition to this, black and mixed-race Brazilians live mostly below the poverty line compared to white Brazilians.
Brazil has a rich history of protesting racial inequality, with some social movements leading back to 1900 of resistance of slaves taken forcefully from Africa. In 1987, the Unified black movement occurred after the murder of a black factory worker. Then in 1988 came the criminalization of racism from the federal constitution. Many of these black movements are still prevalent today, and are currently working to abolish structural racism that many Brazilians currently don’t believe exists in their country.