Note from BW of Brazil: Last week, BW of Brazil brought you yet another execution style massacre by Brazil’s lethal Military Police, this one once again in Bahia. Although witnesses say the black males had surrendered to police with their hands up, this didn’t stop state forces from opening fire on several of the men killing a total of 15. According to police, the group was intending to bomb a money machine and after police apparently foiled the crime before it could happen, there was an exchange of gunfire which led to the subsequent deaths. Again, this is the official police version of the story and as Military Police have a reputation for fabricating stories to justify their violent actions, we must wait to know if these details are in fact true. Again, even if this were the case, does it justify the “shoot ’em down” mentality of the police?
A few things key details to this story are attracting the attention of people following the story. First, are the comments of Bahia’s governor who compared the police gunning down of 15 black males to the precision of strikers in a futebol match! The second detail is that even though the verdict is still out on the official police story, the attitude of the police toward mourners and marchers in protest against the violence provides a clear example of utter police contempt, disregard and disrespect of the local population. In what seems to be state-sanctioned violence against the (black) population and an atmosphere in which people live in fear of police retaliation, one must really ask what type of society we live in.
Community protests against the slaughter in Cabula, in Salvador. Military Police intimidates
By Rafael Bonifácio e Claudia Belfort; all photos by Rafael Bonifácio
Protesters from social movements and community residents walked to where 12 young men were killed by the police. Along the way, pain, tears and intimidation of the Military Police
Bloodbath in Cabula
It looked like a funeral march. But it was a protest act of residents coming from Vila Moisés in the Cabula district of Salvador, where Military Police (MP) killed 12 people on Friday, February 6th.
They brought pain, fear and indignation against the police that still tried, according to reports of the protesters, to prevent them from participating in the act, approaching them and telling them to return to their homes.
Intimidating actions of the MP took place during the entire walk, which started from the entrance of UNEB (Bahia State University) to the location of the deaths. The act took place on Wednesday, the 11th, at 2pm.
The officers who followed the act accelerated their motorcycles towards the participants, calling them “vagabundas” (vagabounds) and “viados” (faggots). For their part, protesters shouted cries for order, called the police and the governor racists and demanded the end of the Military Police.
“I defend human rights. I will ask for a promotion for the officers who participated in the action for an act of bravery. I corroborate with the discourse of the governor, of the state, the act was legitimate.” – Deputado Soldier Marcos Prisco (PSDB), vice-president of the Commission of Human Rights of the Legislative Assembly of Bahia
“I found it strange that the bike was not more to the side, but in the middle of the protesters and began to accelerate behind me. When a police soldier passed my side, he looked at me and said: What are you, so white, doing here?”, reported Alexander Ciconello, human rights advisor to Amnesty International. “The same policeman was intimidating others, both verbally and with his motorbike.”
Carrying guns, the police came out of their vehicles with weapons drawn, while others were recording videos of protesters on their phones.
Protesters of the Cabula slaughter
The fear was such that residents who participated in the act, in the vast majority women and children, could not be filmed or photographed by the media by determination of the demonstration’s organizers, who feared for their safety.
On Monday, Februrary 9th, according to reports from a resident who will not be identified for security, residents were repressed when trying to close Barreiras road, the main access road to the community, suffering threats and reprisals from MPs throughout the night.
“I really defend the life of my police and that’s what matters: The lives of police officers and the life of society that is suffering from these criminal acts” – Maurício Barbosa, secretary of public security of the State of Bahia
Half open windows of the narrow alleys of Vila Moisés kept those who did not dare to expose their voice or face in support of the protest. They were afraid.
No resident said anymore about the case. Upon arriving on the field surrounded by a thicket where the massacre occurred, one could hear the cries of mothers and parents everywhere. They were uncomfortable finding on location, clothes perforated by bullets, flip flops and bullet shells scattered on the ground in the area. The presence of capsules in area indicates that an forensic examination may not have been done properly. All objects of a crime scene must be taken and labeled because they function as evidence in an investigation.
It was the first time a demonstration organized by the Reaja ou Será Morto (React or You Will Be Killed) movement managed to reach the site of the deaths. Another resident, who will not be identified, questioned, “this path that we took [by narrow lanes] was the same as they [the victims] did with the MPs, if there was shootout, how is it that there are no bullet markings around here, only here [in the field]?”
“If someone from Reaja dies, if I die, you already know what happened,” said Hamilton Borges Walê, coordinator of the Reaja ou Será Morto movement about the death threats that he’s been suffering constantly. “We came to strengthen the community that was prevented from protesting, Monday the police beat us, now they had only to followed the act,” he added.
March in protest against massacre in Cabula
The movement demands a retraction of the comments by governor Rui Costa (PT), which compared the case with a football game saying that “our [black] death is a goal, almost giving an open letter to the police to come out killing,” said Hamilton. They also demand the guarantee of the protection of witnesses of the case, investigation and independent research to investigate the threats that both residents and members of Reaja are suffering.
“We defend, just like a good shooter, to hit more than miss. And you will always have a governor willing to spare no effort to defend from the square to the official, to all who act with the necessary energy, but within the law” – Rui Costa, governor of Bahia (PT)
Cabula massacre, place of death
“Now we will continue in the community, create a memorial, make political and cultural actions, create a space of brotherhood and solidarity so that the community does not suffer more from these problems,” Hamilton said about the continuation of the case.
After the act, all walked together, so that community residents would return to their homes safely. Hamilton changed his shirt for a polo shirt of another color and put on a cap, in order to not to be so easily recognized.
Nobody was left unattended. The fear now is that during the days of Carnival the community won’t have have so much visibility, which makes them more vulnerable.
In a statement emailed to the Ponto website, the State Military Police said it repudiates any approach/stop other than in accordance with the law. And requests “that complaints and reports should be formalized through the Ombudsman by telephone 0800284001, or on the site http://www.pm.ba.gov.br” so that the cases are investigated.
As for whether the police are therefore only lethal weapons, it responded that it is legitimate possession of weapons by the Military Police and that “the utilization takes place according to the necessity of the action, when there is risk on the life of the police or citizen.” It also pointed out that “during the demonstration on Wednesday (11) there was no use of lethal weapons.”