Young black people accuse security and bar owner of assault in RJ: “we were prevented from using the white bathroom”
By Marques Travae
Five black friends, three women and two men, said they beaten by security guards at a bar near Pedra do Sal, in Rio de Janeiro’s Zona Portuária in the late/early morning of Saturday, January 11. According to the group of friends, they were assaulted with punches, kicks and even iron bars and a baseball bat. The victims claim that they didn’t remember the exact name of the bar or if there was a sign on the front of the establishment.
In a post via a social network profile, one of the victims, Andréa Bak described the incident as a lynching after they simply requested access to the establishment’s bathroom, which was destined for its white customers.
Bak, a member of Slam das Minas (Girl’s Slam poetry collective), said it all started when a friend with her, identified as Wakanda, was refused entrance to a bathroom, and aggressively treated by the bar owner when trying to defend themselves. The owner called security guards, who are accused, as well as the bar owner, of truculence. The other females in the group are also part of the slam poetry group.
“Wakanda told me she really had to go, so I went looking for a bathroom for her. I go to Pedra do Sal often and have seen this bar open a few times. I went in. When I got there, three white girls stood in front of me dancing, and I asked where the bathroom was. They took me and suddenly I felt someone poking me,” she says.
Bak says that one of the security guards approached her screaming and punched her in the face when she asked him to lower his voice. Through their social network profile, a video denouncing the unjustified aggressions and asking for people to share was posted.
Andréa reported that she was with Wakanda and two other male friends – all between the ages of 19 and 21 – and were questioned by the local bartender, who was also the owner of the bar.
“He poked me and asked who had let me in. With this, my friends and Wakanda arrived, so I replied that I saw the white girls coming in and thought I could go in too. The guy got angry, started screaming that it was a private party, and then we said ok. He left to find the security guard and we were leaving to go look to another bathroom, but the security guard stopped us and started to put his finger in our face. We argued that we just wanted to use the bathroom, no big deal, and the owner complained because the security guard had let us in. There was a scream, and then the security guard, who is a 20-year-old black guy, went and punched me in the face. I got punched later, but that was the first one, that’s where it all started. The friends came to defend me, and then the security guard started pulling my hair, hung me and hit me even more,” remembers Andréa.
In photos posted via social media, Andréa, the first to be beaten, appears with a purple and swollen right eye from the security guard’s punch.
“I was violently beaten by security guards and their friends simply because I asked him to lower his voice. He came up to me shouting that we couldn’t use the bar’s restroom. The owner of the establishment said that there was a private party there and that we couldn’t use it. But others, white people, were using the restroom. I got punched in the face, kicks and three strikes with iron bars on the head. It’s not gonna go like this. These aggressors should be punished so that they don’t do this to other people,” vented Andréa by telephone.
Also, in the one of the photos posted, the hand of one of the victims appears swollen. According the report, it was broken after being struck by a baseball bat. One of the young men also suffered a broken arm.
With all of the confusion, Andréa says she managed to break free and tried to escape the melee. In her haste to flee, although she didn’t see friends, the security guard and the bartender continued to chase her through the streets. When she realized what had happened, her friends had been surrounded by several other people and were at risk of attacked by an angry mob.
“No one was understanding what was happening, why it all happened. The security man came up to me, picked me up from behind and hung me. Then I remember seeing the bar owner walking towards me with an iron bar and hit me in my head. I remember that some street vendors saw and started screaming, and a black man, also a street vendor, stepped in front of me to defend me and ended up getting beat too. There were more than 10 people beating the five of us. When that street vendor got in, I managed to escape again. I ran and only managed to find my friends up ahead, far from the confusion. If that street vendor hadn’t gotten in, I probably wouldn’t have left alive,” she says.
“I come to this video to make a complaint and an act of repudiation of what happened in Pedra do Sal at dawn (…). They were beaten with iron bars, baseball bats and other instruments. All black. It’s still difficult to report racism in the country. Everyone is very hurt. It was the wound in the soul. (…) We know that if we don’t make noise nothing will happen. We’re experiencing a difficult time,” said a friend via social media.
Through the Slam de Minas group page (featuring competitions in which slam poets recite their works), one of the victims of the assault further described what happened.
“At dawn on January 11, 2020, we, five young black students were cowardly lynched by the security guards and owners of the first bar after Pedra do Sal. The aggression was after an act of racism in which we were prevented from using the same toilet as the white frequenters. The criminals used iron bars, baseball bats, punches and firearm threat against 3 unarmed women and 2 guys. The confusion attracted lynchers who beat us as we called for help. It was a free aggression on our group and we just want justice and that these men don’t do this to anyone else, because there are reports that they have beaten women in this bar. They can’t get away with this. We are all injured physically and psychologically destroyed. By Monday, the Pedra do Sal will be crowded again and these guys who beat us running the bar again. We need help! Stay alert!!!!”
After the frightening encounter, the five went to the police station to file a report. With numerous injuries, they walked to the 5th DP (precinct), on Avenida Gomes Freire, in downtown Rio. Upon arrival, they were told that the police report should be registered at the 4th precinct, which was located in the Praça da República district. Arriving at precinct, they were told it would be necessary for them to go to the hospital first, which led them to seek medical attention at the emergency room of the Souza Aguiar Municipal Hospital, one of the main public units in the country. According to Andréa, when they arrived, it was 4am on that Saturday morning and they ended up leaving at only 9pm at night. Totally exhausted after their ordeal, they all went home.
“We only got home last night and all we did was try to get some rest. I already have the information of the bartender and the security guard, who is an MC, a kid I’ve seen around there before. From what I saw on Facebook, everyone lives in Morro da Providência.”
According to one source, Andréa and the group were to register the incident today, while another reports that they were expected to give testimony later this week. Sought for a report, the Civil Police said there was still no register of the assault.
I’m gonna reserve judgment on this case as of right now because there are a number of things I am simply not clear on. I’m not saying that something like this couldn’t have happened, as we’ve seen that Brazilians can have a very lynch mob mentality in some situations (see here, here or here, for just a few examples). But here are a few reasons that I need to know more.
For one, I know that many establishments don’t allow access to their bathrooms unless people are in the place as paying customers, so that’s not really strange. Now, why the owner would react this way because of a simple request is beyond me. Two, Andréa says that the security guard was black, so do we have another situation of a black man attacking other black people in defense of a white estbalishment? Three, I’m trying to figure out how Andréa managed to see what happened to her friends if she had in fact ran to try to escape the situation. And four, why is it that, if the this frightening ordeal went down late Saturday/early Sunday, why hadn’t the group made a police report yet? Of course, today is Monday and as the day hasn’t ended yet, they very well could. But that’s why I’m gonna wait and see what more comes out.
The last thing I want to point out is that Pedra do Sal is part of the region known as “Pequena África”, meaning “Little Africa”, an historic region in downtown Rio. The area is known as a symbol of black Brazilian culture, where traditional rodas de samba (samba circles) were held on Mondays. It was here that served as meeting for Africans and Bahians arriving in Rio at the beginning of the 19th and 20th centuries, and is considered the cradle of samba, where figures such as Donga, Pixinguinha and João da Baiana would have jam sessions that would eventually lead to the first samba, which was released in 1917.
With information via Notícia Preta, O Globo and Polêmica Paraíba