Note from BW of Brazil: What’s going on here? Two blacks lawyers were the targets of policing agent actions just a few days apart from each other. In two more clear examples that show Malcolm X’s analysis more than 50 years ago still holds true in 21st century Brazil. ‘What do you call a black man (or woman) with a Ph.D? A nigger,” Malcolm said in response to his own question. Well, in these two recent cases, neither lawyer was actually called a “nigger”, nor were they called “negão” or”negrinha” as would be common in Brazil, but the treatment these two received was basically the equivalent of hurling a racial insult or keeping a successful black “in their place”. The fact is that, whether of upper, middle or lower class status in Brazil, it doesn’t matter, for skin color trumps whatever credential one may have. I mean, how many times do we have to see examples of this? We could cite Flavio Sant’ana, the black dentist who was shot and killed in 2004. How about lawyer and former government official, Josefina Serra dos Santos, who was frisked, insulted and had a gun pointed at her by Military Police in the Federal District. Or maybe the governor’s daughter who was physically assaulted because people thought she had to be maid and thus taken the maid’s elevator in a ritzy apartment building. The fact is that, in Brazil, black people, regardless of their credentials, are still treated as 21 century slaves. How else would you explain the three incidents described below happening to three black Brazilians who, as lawyers, should receive some of the highest levels of respect? Adilson J. Moreira breaks it down.
Adilson J. Moreira explains why discussing gender and race in the case of the lawyer detained during the hearing
By Gabriel Prado
On Monday, September 11th, Valéria dos Santos, a black and carioca (native of Rio) lawyer, was holding a hearing at the 3rd Special Civil Court of Duque de Caxias, in the Baixada Fluminense region of Rio, when she was detained after demanding a reading of the contestation of the lawsuit.
Under the order of the lay judge and the passivity of other colleagues, Valéria was handcuffed and dragged out of the courtroom without her client’s defense being appreciated.
Professor Adilson José Moreira, Ph.D. in Comparative Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School, explained to Justificando that “this judge’s role in calling a police officer to deal with black women is the specific and common type of how white people treat black people, that is, the treatment that the black person must always have is a police case.”
Amid the assault, the lawyers and authorities present witnessed the violation of at least six prerogatives of Valéria as an OAB (Brazilian Lawyer’s Guild) lawyer. Constituted so that the free exercise of the profession is not prohibited by the interests of the parties or the present court, as pointed out in a note of the National, Sectional and Subsectional Commissions for Defense of Prerogatives and Valuation of Advocacy of the Brazilian Lawyer’s Guild.
The use of handcuffs, as was done with Valéria, according to binding precedent n. 11 of the STF, is only permissible in case of resistance and of well-founded fear of flight or of danger to one’s own or others’ physical integrity Since lawyers can not be arrested in the exercise of their profession, except in the event of an unaffordable crime (art. 7, par. 3 of Law 8.906/94).
No imprisonment of a lawyer during the exercise of the profession can be done without the presence of representative of the OAB (art. 7, IV, of Law 8.906/94). Moments before being arrested, Valéria requested the presence of the lawyer of the Guild.
“I have already called [the OAB delegate]. I went to call. Has some colleague called? You are such my friends, such colleagues of profession that you didn’t call. You all remained silent. You all remained silent. You didn’t call anyone. I had to leave myself. I’m alone! You are not a friend. If you were a colleague, you would be the first to call the delegate. You didn’t call,” said Valeria before being detained.
“What is there in this very clear case is a police officer who is directed to a professional who is acting as a defender of a client being unmerited and mistreated, implying that she doesn’t have the capacity to act and operate as an agent within that social space that is a space of the white man,” analyzed Professor Adilson Moreira.
The president of the Brazilian Institute of Lawyers stated that “the inexplicable illegal use of handcuffs confirms the tendency of class criminalization, with intensifying attitudes of devaluation and disqualification of lawyers.” In addition to the violation of prerogatives of lawyers, “the act also suggests discrimination of gender and race,” he said.
Just a few days before the situation involving dos Santos, Renato Almeida Freitas Jr., a black lawyer, criminalist, activist and candidate of the PT for state deputy in Paraná, was hit by rubber bullets at point-blank range by the Metropolitan Guard of Curitiba while leafletting in the Praça do Gaúcho, in Curitiba, Paraná.
After a violent police approach witnessed by visitors of the square, Renato was taken by car to the Hospital of Cajuru and then sent to the 1st District. The lawyer was a speaker at the 24th International Seminar on Criminal Sciences of the Brazilian Institute of Criminal Sciences (IBCCRIM), where he dealt with racism and the criminal justice system.
“In both cases the state is saying to the black person that you don’t have the right to formulate demands and to be in a place occupied by white people,” concludes Professor Adilson Moreira adding that “There is a two-way racialization, both of the place that the individual must occupy within the social scale and as the places in which the individual can operate as a social agent.”
Two years earlier, black lawyer Flávio César Damasco was harassed, handcuffed and taken to a police station trying to enter the Regional Labor Court, TRT of the 2nd Region, in downtown of São Paulo. He waited for the elevator when he was approached by a shouting security guard that said he couldn’t use the private elevator.
At the other elevator, he was asked if he was a lawyer and asked to hand over his wallet Lawyers Guild. Finding the hostile treatment within a forum that is publicly accessible to any citizen, he told the security guard that he would only identify himself if he asked politely. More security guards were called and he was handcuffed and taken to a police station.