The death of a black man who was beaten by security agents in a Carrefour group supermarket in Porto Alegre sparked protests in different cities in Brazil this Friday and cast a shadow on the commemoration of Black Awareness Day.
A thousand protesters marched in downtown Sao Paulo to a market branch in the Jardim Paulista neighborhood. A part of the group threw stones at the glass façade and invaded the establishment, destroying or setting fire to merchandise, shop windows and other facilities, according to an . photographer.
“Being black in Brazil is that they steal your humanity and your rights, it is not having the opportunity to come and go calmly, the security system sees you as an accused, even when you are a victim,” Ricardo Fernandes, one of the of the protesters who boycotted a Carrefour branch in Rio de Janeiro by occupying the boxes and preventing the normal functioning of the market.
The police dispersed a protest that was taking place in front of the supermarket where the death occurred in Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul, south) with gas and noise bombs, according to local television.
The scene that outraged the country occurred on Thursday night: in images recorded with a cell phone by a witness, it can be seen the moment when Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas, a 40-year-old welder, is beaten with fists by one of the agents while the other keeps you immobilized.
According to local press accounts based on testimonies from the Military Police, the man allegedly threatened a supermarket worker, who called the security agents who beat him outside the center. Emergency services tried to resuscitate the man, but he ended up dying at the scene.
The two assailants were arrested. One of them is a temporary military police officer and works in that supermarket in his spare time.
A friend of the victim who witnessed the beating told the G1 news portal that, while he was beaten, Silveira Freitas “screamed that he could not breathe”, a phrase that evokes the death of George Floyd, a black man who died asphyxiated by a police officer target in Minneapolis (United States), a fact that shocked the world and sparked mass mobilizations.
The president and CEO of the French group Carrefour, Alexandre Bompard, said on Twitter that he asked the Brazilian subsidiary for “full collaboration with the courts” to clarify the facts “of this horrible act”, in addition to an internal review on how they train their officials in matters of “security, respect for diversity” and “repudiation of intolerance”.
“My values and the Carrefour values do not allow racism and violence,” added Bompard.
The Brazilian subsidiary assured that it will take the “pertinent measures to hold those involved in this criminal case responsible” and that it broke the contract with the security company.
– Government denies structural racism –
In Brazil, “millions of black people continue to be victims of racism, racial discrimination and intolerance, including its most cruel and violent forms,” the UN representation in Brazil said in a statement, asking local authorities to secure an investigation. ” swift “and” adequate punishment for those responsible. “
The episode shook the Day of Black Conscience (a day in honor of the leader of the resistance of the Zumbí slaves of the Palmares) in a country that has lived with structural racism since it became the last in America to abolish slavery, in 1888.
More than half of the 212 million Brazilians are black or mestizo and suffer high rates of police and street violence, poverty and social marginalization. In addition, they are poorly represented in politics and business.
But the current ultra-right government does not recognize this situation.
Vice President Hamilton Mourao said that the “regrettable” murder was the work of “a security agent unprepared for the activity,” but denied that it was a racist act.
“In Brazil there is no racism. That is something they want to import here to Brazil. That does not exist here,” said Mourao.
President Jair Bolsonaro did not mention the death of Silveira Freitas, but affirmed on Twitter that the country’s problems “go beyond racial issues” and that Brazil’s “great evil” continues to be “moral, social and political corruption.”
“As president, I am color blind: they are all the same color. There is no one color [de piel] better than the others. There are good and bad men, “Bolsonaro added.
Philosopher Djamila Ribeiro, one of the most powerful contemporary voices in the anti-racist struggle in Brazil, maintains that “the naturalization and justification of the death of black people as a result of violence is present in political, legal, business and media discourses.”
“May this month of black conscience, in the face of this brutal murder, serve for sectors of society to reflect on the historical consequences of racism”, defends Ribeiro, in a comment sent to ..
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