Note from BW of Brazil: If you happen to have brown to black skin with salient African features, you know this is a very serious matter. It’s a situation we are all familiar with, be it from personal experience, the experiences of people in our social circles or stories we read or hear about in the news. I’m speaking of the the dreaded police stop.
Whether we happen live in Brazil, the United States or Europe, the story is pretty much the same. People who don’t admit this to be true are either simply in denial or don’t want to openly admit that police approach and deal with people differently based on the race the person being interrogated is believed to belong to. And as we know, regardless of denial, sometimes, routine procedures can be fatal.
In terms of the global media, I can say with relative certainty that cases of police murdering unarmed black men in the United States are far more well-known than fatal police actions that happen in Brazil, even with the latter reporting far more deaths due to police actions. But the question for those of who are stereotyped as “violent” or “dangerous”, even not being so, is, what do we do when we see flashing lights behind our cars and then a police agent approaches our vehicles as we sit waiting behind the wheel?
Lawyer Bruno Cândido discusses this below. Cândido knows a little about the injustices associated with one’s racial background. Last year, Cândido represented the dancer Barbara Querino in a case in which she was held in prison for a crime that happened while she wasn’t in the city in which the crime took place. Recently, Cândido has had his own experiences with the police. Check out the interview below.
Bruno Cândido reports racism during police stop and explains what should be done in these cases
With information from Mundo Negro
It’s common to see complaints in social networks about the aggressive way that the Military Police (PM) approach black people during road blitzes. Unfortunately, it was no different with lawyer Bruno Cândido, who was approached at dawn on August 6, on Avenida Brasil, in Rio de Janeiro, while returning home. Five white police officers were responsible for the stop.
None of the lawyer’s documents or that of the car were requested. After all the embarrassment with the action of the police, who made him put his hands on the hood of the car to roughly search him, Bruno was photographed by the personal cell phone of one of them, in the photo also appeared the plate. The whole car was searched and obviously nothing illegal was found. Then he was released.
Via his Twitter account, Bruno reported the situation in detail and people across the country showed their indignation but also revealed cases similar to his. The report has had a huge reaction on the social network and shows us how racism affects black people anywhere, regardless of social status.
“At dawn today, PM photographed me with my hands on the hood of my car, being searched by a police officer, what they call a file. I know the system, in months I can be marked for being black, being recognized in a photo album in the “todo preto é igual” (all blacks are alike) mode.” – Bruno Candido (@ BrunoCndido20) August 6, 2019
We talked to him about what happened and how to react in situations like this. Check it out!
What do you do during such police stops and what don’t you do? Do you believe that racism has a big impact on these police actions?
Police stops that select and treat people with a dehumanizing perspective, within an environmental atmosphere that favors the severity of violence from emotional and mental to physical, that is, on the periphery at dawn, should not, if possible, be immediately countered. This is because, the manifestation of the one assaulted can increase the violence to a beating and even murder, which was naturalized and in the current legitimated political conjuncture.
In fact, the police stop that puts any individual who has identification and does not engage in any illicit behavior is not only illegal but unconstitutional. Illegal because the policeman can only do what the law allows, and it is totally forbidden to do what has no legal provision. Unconstitutional because the taking of the individual who is not committing a crime is only possible if he does not have a document that identifies him, which is called the “Prison for Inspction”, a remnant of the dictatorship and slavery. Therefore, attributing conditions of suspicion for no good reason and still photographing as if suspicious were frontal violations of the human dignity of the individual who is actually a victim, which is strictly prohibited.
It is worth mentioning that this behavior in the police activity, which is technically a “file” and precedes the investigation, has been an illegal police practice that also adhered to the use of cellphone technology. Police file because the face is photographed as a rule, an identification for location, and a suspicious scenario is created. In my case, the identification was the license plate of my car, the suspicious legitimating scenario would be the recording of the moment when there was a policeman behind me doing a personal review, which brings back to the reader the image of the classic American hard-core cop movies In one of my cases, the case of the dançarina negra (black dancer), Baby, she was photographed handcuffed and the images were handed over to a sensationalist police network program, we acquitted her of one of the two cases that responded to, that is, she was still imprisoned because, among other things, of the suspicious scenario in which she was inserted, even though we proved that she was somewhere else at the time of the crime in which she was charged.
For these reasons, it violates the soul to give this oritentation… but self-protection comes before anything. Whoever is recruited under this circumstance, in order not to make matters worse, should choose the “lesser evil” and follow the “protocolo negro de sobrevivência” (black survival protocol). In my situation, no matter how much I knew about illegality, no matter how much I knew about the system and the circuit that makes a photo in a policeman’s device, the silence was worth it for me as the best survival strategy. It hurts and still hurts, but I am alive to fight this practice against meus irmãos (my brothers) in the future.
In the case of the person who feels assaulted, what can be done? What procedure should she follow to make a complaint?
The person should immediately seek specialist lawyers or human rights representations, with a persepective from the group that he is part of it. Because, provided that their protection is ensured, he must require that the Military Police officer, the general command of the Military Police be provoked to a response to that illegal practice, and still motivating Disciplinary and Criminal Administrative Process against the aggressor(s).
With or without the response, the person that was approached can take personal action for civil reparations and against the aggressor police officer and the State. It is important that you have the place, time and if possible the identification of the police and their battalion. If not, the Military Command should inform, in the case of legal blitz, who the police officers were on duty at that time and period. In the case of illegal, the investigation becomes more fragile.
How do you see what happened to you?
I understand it as discriminatory violence. Classic institutional racism. The lack of identification requirement was a clear manifestation that the policemen were already sure of an identity attributed to me, through the imaginary of criminal ideal or public enemy number one that it has within other elements that intersects color as a determining aegis. Even though I had at least five institutional documents that would spare me from any suspicious activity intervention.
Initially, why did you decide not to file the complaint?
In fact, before the fear was of retaliation, since a month before I was also stopped, again not asked for identification and at the end of the checking of the vehicle, when I was released the police said: “you can go, Doctor”, even with nothing identifying me as a lawyer anywhere in my car. Because of the possibility of being in the target of policemen and with the increase in the blitz on the expressways, always and only the direction of the periphery, where I live, I was afraid of my physical integrity. In particular, for the sentiment of the death penalty introduced by Governor Witzel, who even, in addition to the genocide speeches, granted state-of-the-art vehicles and new weapons to the police of a state that was, not long ago, was bankrupt…
With the support of the Frente de Juristas Negros e Negras (Black Men and Black Women Jurists Front) of Rio de Janeiro, of the (Brazil Bar Association)/RJ Human Rights Commission in addition to the UN interest in the violations of black lawyers in Brazil, I converted fear and feeling of vulnerability into energy and decided to formally represent the denunciation to the Inspector General’s Office, as well as to be legally represented by the Center for Combating Racism of the Public Defender’s Office of the State of Rio de Janeiro. I still believe that institutional garments don’t protect black bodies, but I am really afraid of the current transition of racial violence in Rio from veiled authorization in left-wing governments to legitimization and promotion in the current (des)governo ((mis)government)).