Middle-class vigilante group sought to “catch and kill”; thought to be responsible for tying black teen naked to a pole in Rio

US south in the 20th century, Brazil in the 21st century Racism always camouflages itself as "justice" in order to act
US south in the 20th century, Brazil in the 21st century
Racism always camouflages itself as “justice” in order to act

Note from BW of Brazil: The story involving the young black male who stripped naked and tied to a pole by his neck provoked outrage from communities around the world who noted a certain similarity with the way black youth are disrespected, lynched and killed in other parts of the world. The funny thing about Brazil is that it has managed to escape worldwide scrutiny in terms of racial inequality and social apartheid. But this is surely to change as the nation that seems to care more about spending billions of reais on the World Cup rather than its population, continues to attract worldwide headlines because of its ill practices that “coincidentally” seem to always happen to brown-skinned people. Below is a follow-up report on the investigation and what has happened since this latest shameful event occurred.

The following report is courtesy of O Dia, Felipe Werneck, O Globo, Folha and BW of Brazil

‘Justiceiros’ accused of torturing youth in Flamengo are arrested by police

Men were in the skating rink of Flamengo Park. According to locals, they attack and torture people they judge as being suspects

O Dia

Youth was pinned by the neck to a pole with a bike lock
Youth was pinned by the neck to a pole with a bike lock

Rio – Young men accused of being a part of a group called “Justiceiros of Flamengo” were arrested early on Tuesday and sent to the 9th precinct (Catete). The group was identified by homeless people as responsible for the torture of a boy, last Friday, who was found tied to a pole by his neck with a bike lock in Flamengo. The suspects were in the skating rink in Flamengo Park when they were surprised by the police.

Those arrested that were over 18 were fined for conspiracy and corruption of minors. The minors in the group were charged with conspiracy. They paid bail and were released. According to locals, the group had been active in the district since last year. They attack and torture people they to be suspect.

The image shocked social organizations, Facebook users and residents of the area who recognized the young man as a thief in the region. According to the author of the picture, the coordinator of the project Uerê, Yvonne Bezerra de Mello, who is a resident of the neighborhood, the boy was found at around 11pm, on Friday, near the corner of Oswaldo Cruz and Rui Barbosa Avenues, with a cut on his ear and torture marks on his back.

He alleged that a group of three masked bikers, titled “the justiceiros”, were responsible for the assault. A friend who was with him was also beaten, but has not been located. The teenager, who needed the help of firefighters to free himself from the pole, was taken to the Souza Aguiar Hospital. In one of the photos released, the boy appeared to be crying.

Youth seen leaving the police precinct with a social assistance representative
Youth seen leaving the police precinct with a social assistance representative

The teen who was discovered naked, bruised and chained to a pole in Flamengo, testified that he and three other young men were surrounded by a group of 30 men, strong and well dressed, that were on fifteen bikes. One of them was armed with a pistol.

In testimony given on Monday night in the 9th police station, the 15 year old minor said that two of his companions managed to escape from the siege of bikers.

According to the affidavit, the two took several blows, some of them brandished with the helmets that the attackers wore. After some time, the other minor escaped but he remained and continued to be assaulted.

Wounded and with no clothes, the teenager was fixed to the pole with a bicycle chain. Among various injuries, he had a cut on the ear, which was caused, he said, by a blow from a helmet. The teen told police that the attackers were all young, well dressed and very strong, with bodies of persons who frequent the gym. Also according to him, all of them were white, except one, who was black.

Group suspected of a series of vigilante actions
Group suspected of a series of vigilante actions

“I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” said the young man at the police station. According to his testimony, the four minors were walking from Flamengo to Copacabana beach, where they intended to sleep.

The fact divided opinions the social network page of the plastic artist. While many supported the attitude of Yvonne in rescuing the youth, others criticized the initiative. In one of the comments, a commenter posted the fact that it was “symbolic” because if the police don’t do their part to make arrests, the population does. Yet another said that he could have also been the victim because he is black, resident of the area and often wears no shirt.

“Many people sent me messages with those arguments of type ‘it’s a shame, take him home’; but if he has assaulted the police had to have arrested him. What I cannot accept is that, in a residential neighborhood, this has happened,” said Yvonne.

Case gains international attention

Daily Mail coverage
Daily Mail coverage

The website of the British tabloid Daily Mail on Tuesday highlighted the image of the boy with the title: “Brazilian vigilantes strip naked ‘thief’ and shackle his neck to a lamppost (after stripping him naked)”. In the article, the paper highlights the attitude of some people on social networks that supported violence against the youth.

Two of the 14 young residents of the south zone of Rio were held at the end of the night of Monday the 3rd in Flamengo, in the southern region, on charges of assaulting two boys trying from Cosmos, in the west zone, confirmed in a testimony that they scheduled a meeting through Facebook to “patrol Aterro (Flamengo Park) for potential perpetrators of crimes” in the region, according to the Civil Police.

The young men were picked up because the assault on the two boys from Cosmos comes on the heels of the case of the 15-year old black adolescent who was tied to a pole. “The two cases may be related because the modus operandi is similar and they are all middle-class kids, but we need evidence,” said the delegate of the 9th Police District, Monique Vidal, responsible for both investigations.

‘Catch, kill’. The 14 arrested on Monday by Military Police, around 11pm, are aged 15 to 28 and live in six neighborhoods on the south zone, according to police reports. “Catch, kill, they’re thieves,” one of them was alleged to have said, according to the testimony of one of the victims. Last week, there was great repercussion on the assault suffered by the cyclist Ricardo Monte in Aterro, who was stabbed and had his bike, cell phone, wallet and backpack stolen by three youth.

Crimes have become recurrent in the region – there are no specific data to the Flamengo Park, but in the area of the 9th district there was an increase of 60% in assaults on pedestrians when compared to the first ten months of 2013, the last available data, with the same period from 2012. “The State and Rio society cannot tolerate the formation of groups of private security guards, at the risk of increasing violence and nurture a ‘culture of extermination’ that affects, mostly, poor youth and almost always blacks,” said the executive director of Amnesty International in Brazil, Átila Roque on Tuesday.

“As a resident of the Catete neighborhood and constant user of Flamengo Park, I also worry about the insecurity and state of abandonment that the region is in. But this requires concerted action of public security and social assistance to the population of adults, youth and children who live in that area.”

According to Roque, the scene of black, naked boy, pinned to a post by his neck, is “one more alert as to how much further we can sink even as a society where public institutions fail to respond to the social state of emergency in which we live.”

Police officers are analyzing video footage to try to mount evidence against the group that were alleged to be ‘taking justice into their own hands’.  Two minors reported being harassed by the group. According minors, the group threatened to attack them and said they didn’t like ‘neither beggars nor the poor.’

The case seems to be inspired by the American TV series Breaking Bad. In it, Jesse Pinkman, the Aaron Paul character, imprisons drug dealer Krazy-8 (Domingo Molina) in the basement of his house, using a bicycle lock. According to the Municipal Health Secretariat, the youth was brought in a few minutes into the 1st of February, complaining of chest pain. The tests found nothing and he was put under observation, disappearing shortly after.

 At the police station the youth who were assaulted said that the group of vigilantes appeared threatening to beat them up saying they were “inimigos de moradores de rua” (enemies of the homeless).

The so-called “Bairros” group page on Facebook states that the purpose of this group is to create a community of friends “to watch occurrences and pressure the appropriate agencies for improvements in our neighborhood” and ensures that inciting violence is not the focus of the group and that it is a crime.

Reports of violence by a supposed wave of “vigilantes” keep popping up on the net and complaints are submitted by residents or even victims. It was the case of a resident of the neighborhood who asked not to be identified:

“I was in the street and them. There were about 20 boys between 16 and 21 years old, with sticks and what they were doing was homophobic “arrastão” (or dragnet) saying they would ‘clean the Aterro of Flamengo (park) and the neighborhood from gays, drug addicts and thieves.’ They were chasing everyone who ran from them. Who would not run at 11 o’clock, midnight from an armed group of 20, 25 middle-class boys armed with clubs? I ran and they ran after me, and a lot of people standing in the way. It didn’t matter if he was white, black, gay, straight, nothing. They didn’t even ask.”

Also according to the account of the resident, the chase continued until he entered a police car passing by the location. According to him, there was no report made. The police just told the group to disperse and took him to the corner of his home.

On Tuesday morning, Municipal Guards arrested six youths, among them, one who was older than 18, was armed with a knife and is a fugitive of the courts. They were allegedly practicing “arrastões” (dragnets/group attacks) in Aterro. While waiting to testify the man identified as Márcio de Oliveira da Silva, said he was not a thief, but a trash/scrap collector and said he has been a victim of constant “playboy patrols”:

“They’re saying that I’m Márcio. But I say my name is Marcelo. I had this knife because I found it in the trash. If there’s no victim, they cannot arrest me. They have to arrest the playboys who go around beating up everyone that’s in their way.”

An employee at the Aterro parking lot, Rosineide Barbosa de Oliveira closely followed the discourse of a suspect. She said she had been robbed in the morning by another homeless person. According to her, they are always near the lake in front of the MAM (Museu Arte Moderna or Museum of Modern Art).

“The situation is very difficult. At any moment they rob and steal from residents and those who work there. It’s a war.”

Source: O Dia, Estadão, O Globo, Folha, Black Women of Brazil

About Marques Travae 3204 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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