Note from BW of Brazil: “If you are black, pay attention to what we are going to talk about…avoid going out of the house in the wee hours…take the receipt of expensive equipment and never walk alone.”
These words may seem like the lyrics of a rap song, but they are actually lines from a video released two YouTubers and a journalist in a video called “Intervenção no Rio: como sobreviver a uma abordagem indevida” (Intervention in Rio: how to survive an improper approach). All three are young black men and the video is an honest attempt to explain to people, particularly black, living in Rio’s favelas how to react when approached by Military Police or the Army after the recent approval by the Federal Government to send in the Brazilian Army to police streets throughout the state.
As we have pointed out regularly here, Afro-Brazilians are far more likely to be seen as criminal suspects, stopped, asked for documents, frisked and killed by police, both accidentally and with intent. And now with the army being sent in, who should we expect to be most victimized by “safety” actions? For those who prefer to see Rio as just beautiful beaches and a tall Jesus statue, feel free to keep daydreaming. For black people, this is life and death reality and the advice in this video could actually save one’s life!
“If you are black …”: the video with survival tips for intervention in Rio
Courtesy of Revista Fórum and El País
The federal military intervention in Rio de Janeiro has provoked numerous contrary reactions. This time, a video showing tips and practical tips on how to survive an undue approach, made by three young blacks and published on the internet, gained great repercussion. The work was published on Saturday (17) and until Monday morning (19), more than 6.5 thousand people had already watched it on YouTube. On Facebook, the reach was even greater: more than 51,300 people shared the post and 1.7 million watched it.
Because they are black, the young people in the video say they are more vulnerable to being approached by security officers. Among the tips, they warn not to walk without documents, always tell friends where you are going and always have your cell phone charged in case you need to call someone or record anything that is necessary. “If you are stopped and in a public environment, please record with your cell phone. It’s still the best and biggest record we can make,” says Edu Carvalho, a reporter for the site Favela da Rocinha.
Some recommendations seem more unusual but are examples of cases that have already happened in Rio de Janeiro. “In public places, avoid the use of drills and a long umbrella. It seems silly, but, many people look at this from afar and think they are firearms. Prefer small umbrellas that can be folded and placed in a bag to avoid any problem,” explains the advertiser and YouTuber Spartakus Santiago. One morning in May 2010, a police officer from the Special Operations Battalion (Bope) of Rio de Janeiro assassinated the supermarket employee Hélio Ribeiro, 46, a resident of Morro do Andaraí, in the north of the capital, with a shot. He was on the roof of his house holding a tarp with a drill. At the time, Capt. Ivan Blaz, a spokesman for Bope, said that “the police officer is psychologically upset,” and said “I’m very sorry about the fact, since the police officer has a clear career and an unfortunate event occurred.” Subsequently the corporal Leonardo Albarello, author of the shot, was acquitted by the Courts.
The video alert gains relevance with military intervention in the state since members of the army who come to kill civilians during an operation in Rio will not be tried by the Jury Court, but by a military court, according to a law passed in the Senate in 2017. Entities monitoring the use of violence by authorities in poor communities believe that this is, in practice, a free hand to kill. In addition, the homicide rate per 100,000 blacks is almost double that of whites in Rio: 21.5 to 41.
In the video, AD Junior, of the channel Descolonizando, (de-colonizing) gives another tip: carry a sales receipt in case the person has an expensive object. “It can be very useful at the time of unfair and undue seizure,” he says. And in case of improper approach, he completes: “Do not make sudden movements and do not confront any of these agents.”
“In case of an approach do not make sudden movements and do not confront the agents. If you’re going to get something in your bag, ask the police for permission,” explains AD Junior in another part of the video. Once again, the security tip is firmly anchored in reality: event producer Luis Guilherme dos Santos, just 18 years old, was killed by police in Nova Iguaçu, located in the Baixada Fluminense region of Rio de Janeiro state, on January 4th of this year. He was in a truck of the company he worked for when he was approached. As he got out the vehicle, his backpack fell to the ground. Santos bent down to pick it up, and that was enough for him to be shot in the back – in the head, abdomen, and shoulder.
Spartakus said the idea of making the video was not to crucify the military but rather to alert people, mostly blacks and people who live in the favelas (slums). “The video was not meant to demonize the military. I have my position against the intervention, but it was not the intention of the video,” he added.
The authors of the video focus on technology as a tool – and an ally – for blacks to survive approaches. “Be sure to walk with a cell phone, with the battery always charged. With it you can do not only make calls, but also the recordings, and share your location with friends through WhatsApp or Facebook,” says Carvalho. He also encourages someone who is stopped by the police or the Army to record the approach with the phone. “Try to record as many things as you can. Date, place, victims, witnesses … With the cell phone horizontal,” he says. The journalist also points out that without the authorization of a judge, “nobody can look at your cell phone.”
The video, although released days after the announcement of the military intervention in Rio, is valid for any time of year, with or without Army, in practically any large Brazilian city where the população negra (black population) is most vulnerable. Finally, the video brings an important reminder. “Do not carry pine sol or bleach inside your backpack or purse.” The excerpt mentions what happened with recyclable materials collector Rafael Braga, who spent bitter years in prison after being detained in June 2013 carrying a bottle of disinfectant. According to the prosecution, he was going to use the material to make Molotov cocktails. He was sentenced to four years and eight months in a closed regime prison (see note one).
About the impact on the internet, Spartakus said that opinions are divided: “For black people, the repercussion is very good, because they are people who understand the need for this video. But there are also many white people making indignant comments. We’re trying to deal with it,” he explained.
- Regime fechado or ‘closed regime’ refers to a situation in which a prisoner remains imprisoned the entire day and only comes out to work in special cases in comparison to a regime aberto or ‘open regime’ in which a prisoner works outside during the day and spends the day in a shelter or their own home.