Note from BW of Brazil: Surely some people must sometimes wonder ‘what the hell is going on Brazil?’ But the things that are coming out of Brazil nowadays could come as a shock to anyone who believes the country is free of racial conflict and that the nation’s citizens are all just friendly, good-natured people who love futebol, samba and Carnaval. Well, sorry for the wake up call, but if you haven’t caught wind of some of the divisions woven into the fabric of Brazilian society either through the hundreds of articles on this blog or some other news source, today’s story should definitely do the trick!
It’s been a very turbulent few years for Brazilians. In an incredible turn of events, the country went from celebrating an exploding economy, being rewarded both the World Cup and the Olympics to being humiliated in futebol’s biggest event on their home turf, to suffering a near collapse of its once red hot economy to an impeachment process that suspended the second term of the nation’s first female president in what many acknowledge to be a coup d’etat. These misfortunes have come and intensified already existing divisions along lines of class, race and gender. Last month, the brutal gang rape of a 16-year old teen in Rio de Janeiro made world headlines and soured the country’s already damaged image as it moves into a crucial period of preparation for the city’s hosting of the 2016 Olympics. The incident once again brought into question the issue of safety that is always a concern in a country reported to have the highest number of murders in the world.
This issue of murder and the way in which race and class determine the value of human life in the minds of many came to forefront once again recently with the murder of a 10-year black boy by Military Police in São Paulo, the country’s largest city and economic engine that drives the economy. Government ideals of public safety are voraciously echoed by residents of the country’s upper and upper middle class residents many of whom live by the slogan that “the best criminal is a dead criminal”. Against what some label as a strong fascist element among Brazilians, issues of race and class recently came to a head as mostly white residents of an upper crust neighborhood of São Paulo organized a demonstration of support for a Military Police unit that poor black citizens of periphery regions of large cities see as brutally murderous, an idea that is supported by the fact police forces in Brazil kill five times as many people as police in the United States.
When black militants arrived on the scene to challenge the discourse of a band of racists (as they saw them), the climate got heated leading to emotionally charged arguments (see videos below). This has become a rather common scene in recent years as a new generation of Afro-Brazilian activists are increasingly challenging society’s treatment and view of them in relation to everything from discomfort with their presence on flights, to stereotypical images on television programs, to racist campaigns that demean their hair and the country’s genocidal murders of black youth. Although there was no report of violence, it was a scene of racial confrontation that many would assume doesn’t exist in Brazil.
Black militants demoralize demonstration of whites in support of a black child’s death
During protest of groups for and against the death of Ítalo, Military Police responsible for security of the headquarters of the Geraldo Alckmin government saluted supporters of police violence
By Fausto Salvadori, Kaique Dalapola and Daniel Arroyo
It was to have been the day that about 20 residents of the Morumbi neighborhood of the southern area of São Paulo, mostly white, gathered to declare support for officers who killed a ten-year-old child, Ítalo Ferreira de Jesus Siqueira. But a slightly larger group, with about 30 people, almost all black, coming from the suburbs, changed the story that unfolded on Saturday morning of Saturday (6/11).
Taking banners that called the protesters of the Morumbi neighborhood “racistas assassinos” (racist killers) and posters with the faces of young people killed in massacres committed by the Military Police in Osasco (SP) and Mogi das Cruzes (SP), blacks stole the scene of the demonstration of the whites and in the heart of Morumbi, in front of the Palácio dos Bandeirantes (Bandeirantes Palace), headquarters of Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) state government.
Each group positioned itself on one side of Avenida Morumbi, militants from the periphery shouting “racist, fascist, will not pass by” and “it hasn’t end, it has to end, I want the end of the Military Police,” while residents of Morumbi responded with “we support the MP” and “a child is in school, a hoodlum is in jail.” In this clash, the State representatives chose one side. In front of white demonstrators, a group of six police officers working in the external security of the palace struck a solemn salute and gave thanks for the act.
“Thank you, Commander,” said Lt. Damasceno, leader of the group of police, one of the pro-violence police protesters, the federal deputy and MP of the reserve Major Sérgio Olímpio Gomes (SD-SP). Asked by Ponte Jornalismo about the reason for the gesture, the lieutenant said: “Continence is a sign of respect to all good citizens.” As the officer explained himself, one of the citizens applauded the police shouting “Don’t wait for a hoodlum to shoot, no, stick the bullet in and kill, kill!”
In a statement, the press office of the Secretariat of Public Security said that “continence is a military compliance and is carried out between police, including those in reserve,” denying that the Military Police had taken sides of one side of the demonstrations. “The MP followed the two demonstrations to ensure the safety of all involved, as it does in all the protests,” he said.
The officers who made the salute to the Morumbi protesters belong to the 16th Battalion of the Metropolitan Military Police, the same of the Military Police soldiers Israel Renan Ribeiro da Silva e Otávio de Marqui that killed Ítalo with a shot to the head on June 2nd, after the boy stole a car from a condominium in Vila Andrade, a neighboring region of Morumbi. MPs claim that the boy was armed and fired three times against them while driving the car. The same version is also well defended by Governor Geraldo Alckmin, although contradicted by an 11-year old boy, who was with Ítalo and said he was unarmed, and by the inspection of Civil Police, that didn’t find signs of shots made from inside the car.
It started with the whites
Pro-MP protesters arrived first at the scene, around 10 am, after parking their cars in nearby streets of the Palace. They formed a discrete group without banners or posters. “This act is to show the governor that we support the police,” said Celso Cavallini Neves, president of Conseg (Security Council) Portal of Morumbi, responsible for the organization of the act.
Father of four children, Cavallini wasn’t bothered by supporting the death of Ítalo, who for him was not a child but a hoodlum like any other. “With ten, twelve or eighteen years, at that time he was an outcast, a criminal, that could have reached anyone on the street when he shot from inside the car,” he said.
Cavallini also said that the Conseg is paying the costs of defending the MPs that killed Ítalo. “I’m sure the police action was legitimate. I trust the word of the police, which are constituted authorities,” Cavallini said. It’s not the first time that the organization has supported police violence. In September of last year, the same Conseg organized a “vaquinha” (money pool) aimed at helping 11 police officers accused of the execution of two young men, one of which was thrown from a roof – incidentally, it was MPs who belonged to the same 16th Battalion of the officers who killed Ítalo.
In addition to defending the death of Ítalo (“I prefer the death of a 10-year old child criminal to a police family man”), one of the protesters, Deputy Major Olímpio, spared no offenses attacking the ombudsman of São Paulo police, Júlio César Neves. “We have an idiot of a police ombudsman of São Paulo, bigoted, and he tries to fit a version of police barbarity within the facts. He tries all the time to demoralize the police saying: ‘don’t trust MPs, they are barbarians’ and MF has police escort for the protection of his life,” he criticized.
Sought by Ponte (website), Julio said that he wouldn’t comment on the deputy’s statements. “He doesn’t deserve a response,” he said.
Arrival of black militants
Around 10:30 am, police supporters were surprised by the arrival of militants of the Movimento Negro (black movement) and collective from the periphery. “We are once again denouncing and here we’re ready to face against the people supporting the genocídio do povo negro (genocide of black people),” said the militant Alaru through a speaker brought to the action, as soon as he saw the white demonstrators.
Coming from Caieiras, of the greater São Paulo region, the unemployed Isaías Toledo, 19, spent an hour and forty minutes on the bus and train to get to the site. It was the first time I stepped into Morumbi. “What would I do here?” he joked. He said he was there to denounce the violence of the state. “Ítalo is another example of police manipulation to practice institutionalized racism,” he said.
“I am here fighting against the bourgeoisie that wants to go street to naturalize and trivialize our death. The death of youth, blacks, from the periphery,” said the general service assistant, Tatiane Nefertari, 21, a resident of Vila Formosa, of east zone São Paulo.
The screams and banners that called the participants of the pro-police act “racists” were what caused the most discomfort. “We are not racists, look here my friend,” countered Civil Police officer Mercedes Alvarez, one of the protesters, holding hands with the vendor João Henrique Gonçalves, 31, one of the few blacks attending the pro-police act. João, his friend shot back: “The issue here is not racism. The police when they shoot don’t have to have if (the person) is blond or Japanese. I am here defending the MP and demanding security. “
Banner lament child’s death | Photo: Daniel Arroyo/Ponte
“Well your faces murder a black child. They reflect the death that you defend,” shouted Carlos Rodrigo, known as Fuca, to advocates of the Military Police. The action of the blacks made a white woman from Morumbi cry. She crossed the avenue toward the other protesters and said tearfully: “I’m not racist. I don’t want any child to die. But I also don’t want cops to die.”
“Racists” vs. “people of trash”
Most of the time, however, there was more tension than dialogue. Deputy Major Olímpio accused the blacks of being hired to be there. “They won 50 reais and a snack. They are here paid with public money,” he said. “They are here paid with public money.”
“They are a sewer of people. They don’t have the least concern for the lives of the police,” said parapsychologist Maria Helena Franklin, 63, who, despite having eight children, said that killing Ítalo was “more than right.” “Police interrupted the career of a hoodlum. If it were a first world country, that boy would have gotten life imprisonment. Here they did the least for him,” she said. Wrapped up in a fur coat, she said she has lived in Morumbi for 31 years and complained of having suffered from the violence of the crime. “I’ve been assaulted by a child of eight years or less, skinny, thin, with a knife in hand.”
After about half an hour of shouting between the two groups of demonstrators, residents of Morumbi returned to their cars and drove away. Before gathering their banners tracks and starting to head toward the bus stop, the militants from the periphery made a call in which they responded “present” for black youth killed by the MP, such as Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and Lucas Custódio.
While heading for the bus, alongside comrades who celebrated the success of the challenge made against the “white elite”, the militant José Adão, 61, a member of the Movimento Negro Unificado (Unified Black Movement), created in 1978, vented saying he was tired of protesting the death of black youth.
“Our movement started with this question and still today haven’t managed to take a step forward, because we are always dying,” he said. And he confessed: “I don’t want to be here. It should be in a meeting to discuss neighborhood improvement, festa junina…But you have to run after death, death, death. It’s fucked up. “
“We’ll still come back here,” said Adão’s colleague.
“If it were for the same reason, I hope not,” he replied.
Update at 3:40pm – In a telephone contact, the press office of the Secretariat of Public Security said it didn’t recognize irregularities in salute given by police to protesters Morumbi, as the report had stated. According to a spokesperson, nothing impedes that a salute is directed toward any person, civilian or military.
Black militants demoralize white residents of Morumbi
Military Police give a salute to demonstrators in Morumbi