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Note from BW of Brazil: Needless to say, I would really like to be able to watch this film! Why? Well, because it touches on topics that have been consistently covered on this blog for the past five years: racism, police brutality and the genocide of black youth. We already know that Brazil’s police kill five times more than police in the United States and we’ve already seen more than enough examples of just how lethal these forces are. There comes a certain point when one must come to the conclusion that such police actions cannot be merely accidents or poor training but rather that these trained assassins have been given a certain protocol of which to follow when dealing with the Brazilian population, particularly those of darker skin color. It’s more past time to for the nation to begin seeing the victims of these murders as more than just statistics. Hopefully this film receives the widespread distribution that it deserves.
The Case of the Wrong Man exposes the genocide of black youth in Brazil
By Airan Albino; photos: Douglas Freitas
In mid-2016, the CPI Senate report on the Murder of Young People in Brazil presented an alarming number: every year, 23,100 young blacks aged 15-29 are murdered. Doing the math of this contingent (which includes the so-called pretos/blacks and pardos/browns) are 63 deaths per day, one every 23 minutes. As soon as the report was released, many questioned the accuracy and authenticity of the study.
The mixture between people who declare themselves to be pardos and those who declare themselves pretos; The causes of these deaths and the outdated facts: the Mapa da Violência (Map of Violence) made reference to the year 2012. But despite these misconceptions, it was at that moment that the genocide of young blacks was exposed to a large public.
How long has this been going on without anyone interfering? To say that 77% of the daily deaths in the country are of black youth is very important indeed. It is also essential for this picture to stop repeating itself. On May 14, 1987, this same episode happened. Júlio César de Melo Pinto (1957-1987) was killed for being black, because he fit the profile that society considers dangerous, suspicious and violent. And that happened in Porto Alegre, a black city that already had the second largest Carnival in Brazil, a city that has the second largest concentration of religions of African matrix in the country, a city that began on November 20th.
Every day the same story
Last Thursday (11), the story of Júlio César was presented at the Cinematheque Capitólio through the documentary O Caso do Homem Errado (The Case of the Wrong Man). It was the pre-release of the project that took six years to reach the big screen and had a session with a maximum capacity of 174 seats. It features the direction, script and research of the journalist Camila de Moraes. During the 76 minutes of duration, oral history is used as the predominant narrative in the film. There are reports of characters in this case, such as Ronaldo Bernardi, photographer; Waldemar de Moura Lima (state of Pernambuco), professor; Paulo Ricardo Moraes (state of Bahia), journalist; Jair Krischke, human rights activist; Luiz Francisco Correa Barbosa, former Attorney General, and Renato Dornelles, journalist.
From different perspectives, we learned that a robbery happened in a supermarket on Bento Gonçalves avenue, on the east side of the city. The Military Police was warned and arrived at the scene while the assailants were still inside the market. The photographer Bernardi also managed to arrive at the time. There was a concentration of onlookers in front of the establishment and among them was Júlio César. He had a recent history of convulsions, and with the commotion, he had an epileptic attack.
The robbers had taken two children as hostages to try to escape, but they clashed with the police. They were just two robbers. With the confusion, someone shouted that Júlio César – who was on the floor with health problems – was one of those involved in the crime. Under Bernardi’s flashes, the cops took him, beat him, leading to bleeding as they took him to the police truck. Seeing this, the photographer hurried to the Emergency Hospital to register the arrival of Júlio César. The PMs arrived at the HPS half an hour after leaving the market and the photo that Bernardi was able to take was Júlio César, killed with two shots.
Júlio César was confused, taken as a suspect, judged, assaulted, kidnapped and executed. Because he was passing by the market near his house, because he joined a cluster of people, because he had the “profile” of those involved because he was black. The caso do homem errado (case of the wrong man) gained notoriety at the time, for being on the cover of a large newspaper, Zero Hora, and for the position that Júlio had within the Movimento Negro (black movement) of Porto Alegre.
His friends, from the states of Pernambuco and Baiano did everything to bring justice to their companion, Boneco (nickname of Júlio César). The movimento negro has an active voice in this case. Journalists were able to reach out to the criminal police because of the supply of information from the network of people Júlio César had. Were it not for these variables, this case might have been a note in the popular newspaper of the day – which would probably celebrate the success of the police with the death of the assailants.
It could be anyone.
It could be me, my father, with my uncle, my nephew, my brother, my son, my grandson. It could be anyone who was in the same position as Júlio César. And it could still be someone with no presence in the Movimento Negro, and no registration in the press. But the question posed by Jair Krischke, founder of the Justice and Human Rights Movement (MJDH), in the documentary must be posed: existe o homem certo (does the right man exist)?
The name Caso do Homem Errado (case of the wrong man) quickly became popular among the newspapers and, therefore, among the population. However, this name makes us believe that, yes, a young black man should be killed when such an occurrence occurs. The profile of blacks as violent beings and a threat to society did not fail to figure into the minds of many people, not only in 1987, but also in 2017.
It was not to be so, but the struggle of the movimento negro – anywhere in the world – is for a basic right, not to be treated as a threat, that your life has value. It was so in the American Civil Rights Movements in the 1960s, when the heaviest flag phrase of the Protestants said “I Am a Man.” It is today with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, after the successive deaths in the country. And in Brazil, everything repeats itself. At the same time that the Americans had Emmett Till (1941-1955) and Trayvon Martin (1995-2012), we have Wesley Castro (1990-2015), Wilton Esteves Domingos Júnior (1995-2015), Cleiton Corrêa de Souza (1997-2015), Roberto de Souza Penha (1999-2015) and Cláudia Silva Ferreira (1976-2014) and many others, per day.
For these reasons, it is necessary to show indignation (which often borders on anger) of this absurdity. Before the session in Capitólio, the members of the production of the documentary and the Movimento Negro led a march in the Center of Porto Alegre. With posters bearing names of black youths killed or in the process of (in) justice, the protest went from the Esquina do Zaire to the Cinemateca. Although there was no crowd involved, whoever was at the bus stop – especially the black people – were aware of the message of the march: Vidas Negras Importam (Black Lives Matter).
The pain of those who remain
Behind all this context of violence with young blacks, there is the side of who remain. An early death affects the physical and mental structure of an entire family. And the documentary does not forget that. It shows the side of mothers, like that of journalist Vera Daysi Barcellos, who says she fears every day that her son won’t come home. It shows the strength of Júlio César’s mother, Dona Maria Sebastiana, in the opening address at the audience with the Governor of Rio Grande do Sul at the time, Pedro Simon. She said that the governor would understand her pain, for also having lost a child, but that there was a difference: he knew what had happened to his son, she did not.
And, especially, the documentary shows the perspective of Juçara Pinto , Júlio César’s wife. At age 24 in 1987, it took her three days to know what had happened to her husband. The murder was on a Thursday. On Friday, Juçara found the courage to call Júlio’s job, because it would be a shame to tell the family that her husband had not slept at home until then. With one more night without news, she sent a telegram to Júlio’s family that lived in Viamão. Only with the arrival of relatives to help in the search, did she call the police and made a report on the disappearance. Because of distrust on the other end of the line, Juçara understood what had happened to her husband.
Juçara’s account in the documentary captures the viewer’s attention. By the simplicity in her speech, by the discourse of one who bears the pain of loss, but one who has gone on with life as she could. At various moments in her deposition, it is normal to ask, internally: “Wow, look at what she’s been through. Will she cry? No, I think she must have cried a lot already. Maybe alone, so no one will see.” Juçara says that her life stopped after the murder, but then she laughed with the hypothesis that she would be married to Júlio César until now if nothing had happened. One of the strongest moments of the story is when she says she went to a Carnival parade years later and panicked over an agglomeration. A cop came to restrain her, and as soon as he touched her, she shouted, “Tira a mão de mim. Vocês não vão fazer comigo o que fizeram com o Júlio César!” (Take your hands off me. You will not do to me what you did to Júlio César!) And as she herself tells it, it was natural, not thought out, it just came out. The tumult stopped and everyone was scared at the time.
And as the couple had no children, she chose to continue like this. However, the connection that Juçara has with a child is enormous. One of the characteristics of a poor community is the proximity of neighbors; to the point that some take care of the children of others, forming an adopted family. Juçara helped raise many, many children in Porto Alegre, it made it so that more than 30 people (including members of my family) didn’t enter the world of crime, getting lost in drugs. She fueled these young people emotionally, she shaped many lives.
It’s 2017 and she has not yet been compensated. As for those involved in the death of Júlio César, the lieutenants of the BM João Luis Clavíjio and Sérgio Luiz Borges were sentenced to 14 years in the first instance and appealed. The corporals of the BM (Brigada Militar) Paulo Souza Melim and Carlos Ribeiros dos Santos; the soldiers of BM João Carlos da Rocha, Dair Osvaldo de Freitas, Volmir Gambarra and Jorge Jesus Gomes were sentenced to 12 years in the first instance and were expelled from the corporation. Twelve police officers were convicted at first instance, but all of them were set free. In the end, only one officer, Sérgio Luís Borges, served his sentence. It was a victory, but to what extent?
Until when will this be repeated? How many more will need to emerge? It was Júlio César. It was Amarildo (1965-2013). It was Sandro Barbosa (1978-2000). And Rafael Braga is going the same way. Blacks are being killed in the hills in Brazil. And that’s racism, it’s all racism. And the problem is remembering racism when another black man dies. Racism is structural, it is institutional, it is veiled – for those who do not want to see it. Racism is in many spheres, not to say in all. Racism is a crime. But in these days I’ve read a phrase that sums up the big problem: “The only crime that is solved with an apology in Brazil is racism.”
O Caso do Homem Errado is still in the process of being finished. Changes in the full-length feature were made by feedback in the first session, held in February. The same thing will happen now, the documentary is going to a bunch of festivals in the coming months and the estimation for release nationally is the beginning of 2018. Check out more photos of the night of the pre-release below and the complete album by clicking on this link.