Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s story just goes to show you, once again, regardless of your job, position, rank, or status in Brazilian society, in many ways skin color trumps all. We’ve seen these sorts of cases over and over, you know the setting…You are entering some establishment, you are black, but your colleagues or the people entering the establishment before or after you, are all white. So, why does it happen that you get asked questions, your ID is requested or you are altogether stopped from entering said establishment when persons of a more European appearance freely enter and circulate with no apparent problems. There’s really nothing shocking about today’s case, but it shows that, even being an agent that, in fact, upholds and maintains Brazil’s system of color/race/class-based inequality, if you’re of the darker persuasion, you are subject to the very treatment that your job entails that you dish out to others that look like you.
PM is barred from restaurant, accuses manager of racism and case will be forwarded to police station
“Until then, this had never happened to me, but I expected one day, because unfortunately Brazil is a racist country,” the police officer said.
It was enough for the memory to cause the emotional reaction of the to 6’3″ man of 227 pounds. “In that traumatizing situation, I only thought about my two children. I fight today so they never go through what I went through,” declared military policeman Rafael dos Santos, 33. He accuses a restaurant in Salvador of having committed racism due to his being barred from entering the establishment on the night of Ash Wednesday (6).
According to Rafael, he went with a couple of friends the establishment, when the door was locked shortly after his arrival – other people, with white skin, were not prevented from accessing the place, according to the MP. He said he has no doubt: I was a victim of racism.”Until then, this had never happened to me, but I expected it one day, because unfortunately Brazil is a racist country,” the police officer said.
The case ended up at the 9th precinct Police Station (Boca do Rio) and is being monitored by the State Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP-BA). In a statement, the restaurant denied the allegation and reported that the cop’s motorcycle was seen circling the establishment in a “suspicious manner.”
A soldier of the Guards Battalion for almost eight years, Rafael is stationed at the State Department of Traffic of Bahia (Detran-BA). On the 6th, he had worked all day and, at the end of Ash Wednesday, went to meet a couple of friends, who were already waiting for him inside the restaurant, on Rua Melvi Jones (street).
He arrived at the place at 7:00 pm, wearing jeans, a white shirt with blue detailing, sneakers, a silver watch, and a bag that ran across his chest. The MP got off the bike and headed for the restaurant entrance. On the way, he would talk to his friend who was already there on his cell phone. That’s when he noticed something strange.
“I noticed movement inside the restaurant. The waiters (black and white) were agitated. They looked at me differently. Then I thought, ‘Is there an assault going on?’ As I approached, I leaned my face against the glass wall, saw a tense atmosphere, and then went inside and saw that the door was locked. I hit it with the mopad key and nothing. I called the manager and no one came to open it. Even so, I wanted to understand what was happening, I shouted to call the manager, and no one came,” said Rafael.
From outside, Rafael said he tried to talk to the manager for more than 10 minutes. That was when a friend, also a military police officer, the son of a colonel, got out of a Mercedes-Benz and went to him to find out what was happening.
“At that moment they opened the door, and the manager, Marcelo, a white man, came and talked to me. ‘What do you want here?’ he asked. ‘What do you mean, what I want here? I want to go in,” I replied. ‘Is anyone waiting for you here?’ he asked again and said, ‘This does not interest you. I want to go in.’ It was then that he said: ‘You know what it is, last week they robbed the place and you come dressed like that and we locked the door’. So I said, ‘You mean you just opened the door because my friend got out of a Mercedes-Benz?'” Rafael said.
Still according to Rafael, racism was even more evident when four white people entered without even being stopped. “Four white people arrived and no one asked anything, didn’t ask what they were doing there, if they were waiting for someone, different from the way they treated me.”
Faced with the circumstance, Rafael told the manager he was under arrest. “I said to him, ‘Do you think I’m armed? I could be, because I’m a military police officer (I showed my badge). Now, you are under arrest for racism. He tried to get around the situation, but I said that he would only go straight from there to the police station,” he said.
And that is what happened. Initially, an MP team took them both to the 9th Precinct (Boca do Rio), but, as there was no chief there, all went to the Central de Flagrantes, where they were heard by chief Celina de Cássia Fernandes. “The statements were taken and the police chief thought it would be good to hear the parties and go deeper in order not to make a value judgment,” explained Rafael’s lawyer, Dinoermeson Nascimento.
The next day, Rafael went to MP-BA, where he also reported everything that had happened. The MP-BA communication adviser said that the procedure already exists, but for now the promoter Lívia Vaz, coordinator of the Special Action Group on Protection of Human Rights and Combating Discrimination (GEDHDIS), will not talk about the subject.
But Rafael doesn’t plan to stop there. He’s going to sue the Restaurante Picuí. “When I told my family what happened they were all devastated. My kids (a 12 year old girl and a 10 year old boy) cried a lot. My parents, elderly, were terrified thinking that something worse had happened, because a relative of a police officer lives in constant tension. So I’m going to sue the restaurant,” said the police officer, who has a degree in Administration from the Universidade do Estado da Bahia (Uneb) and ogã of a terreiro in Simões Filho.
“There is no doubt that the restaurant will be sued. No money will pay for what he experienced, but it’s so that it doesn’t happen again, not only in the restaurant, but in all environments,” added the victim’s lawyer.
In a note, the Military Police informed that “it was called to action by the military on the day of the occurrence, last Wednesday (6), and made the referral of those involved to the Central de Flagrantes, where the fact was recorded.” The Civil Police’s communications adviser said that an investigation was initiated based on the Racism Law at the 9th Precinct (Boca do Rio), but, to date, has not informed of the investigation guidelines from now on.
“We will always be resistance. So that cases like these don’t go unpunished,” said the police soldier.