Note from BW of Brazil: Is it just me or does this type of story sound very familiar? Afro-Brazilian arrested as a suspect of a crime. Whether people like to admit it or not, being black in Brazil means being constantly suspected of committing some crime. As we’ve seen, it’s pretty common in supermarkets or shopping malls (see here or here). And it doesn’t matter if one is a black child at a pharmacy or car dealership, teens at chic shopping malls or a college educated actor. The specific case we present today is also all too common. In Brazil, the saying goes, “a white man running is an athlete, a black man running is thief.” As such, it follows, if a black man is driving a car, he must have stolen it. This was the case in August of 2009 when Januário Alves de Santana was brutalized by security guards after being accused of stealing his own car. I’m curious: Do people REALLY think these are misunderstandings, cases of mistaken identity or “isolated incidents”?
University student arrested in alleged racist stop by Military Police and mobilizes lawyers’ guild
By Danilo Emerich
University student accuses police of racism and complains of an aggressive stop
A supposed aggressive police stop motivated by racism is having an impact on social networks and mobilized to the Commission on Human Rights of the Order of Lawyers of Brazil in Minas Gerais (OAB-MG). The victim is Pedro Henrique Afonso, 24, who was arrested last March 30, when he arrived to study at the Faculdade de Políticas Públicas da Universidade Estadual de Minas Gerais (UEMG) (School of Public Policy at the State University of Minas Gerais) (in Belo Horizonte).
According to the account of the college student and educator in the Inhotim Institute, when he locked his car, around 7pm, two policemen of the 124th Companhia do 22º Batalhão da Polícia Militar (Company of the 22nd Military Police Battalion) arrived in a car, already with guns in hands accusing him of stealing the vehicle. He complained about the stop and was handcuffed and charged with disobedience, contempt and resisting arrest. The whole scene was witnessed by peers, teachers and residents nearby, who protested against the police action and considered the case racism, since Pedro is black.
“They didn’t beat me, but they acted with brutality, cursed at me and didn’t even check (to see) if the car was mine. Only after did they assess this and saw that there was no impediment to the vehicle. They came up saying ‘hands on your head, vagabond, and shut your mouth’ and didn’t even let me speak,” said Pedro, in a telephone interview to Hoje em Dia.
At the police station, the student was heard by the police chief on duty, who scheduled a due process hearing on Tuesday (15). He was only released after four hours, accused of a crime to which Pedro pleaded he was innocent.
The commander of the 22nd Battalion, Lt. Col. Eucles Figueireido said that he won’t be able to pronounce on the case as no formal representation on the case had arrived. However, he claims to have requested a review to see what happened.
The case shocked students, teachers, servers and even the rectory of UEMG that came to organize, last April 9th solidarity with the student. On social networks, Pedro’s story was also being noted, having been shared by hundreds of people.
According to Pedro Afonso, the conciliation hearing ended without any agreement in the Special Criminal Court. Social services were offered to him to close the case. Now, the Commission on Human Rights of the OAB-MG should trigger the prosecutor to review the case and also the internal affairs of the Military Police against the police action.
“I never had problems like this and no priors with the Military Police. The military soldiers were identified, but I’m afraid. I try not to walk alone anymore and always go to more open public spaces and telling my parents and girlfriend where I am. I want to move forward because the prejudice that I suffered is not just me, but it happens every day with several other people, including what already happened to my family and close friends,” said Pedro Afonso.
Read below Pedro’s full account in a social network
It was 7pm Monday, March 30th, when I came to the Faculdade de Políticas Públicas da Universidade Estadual de Minas Gerais, where I am student. Locking my car, I was approached by an MP vehicle. ‘What are you doing there?’. I replied that I was working. A sergeant and a corporal, both of 124th companhia from the 22 BPM, came out with guns in hand, ‘hands on (your) head, vagabond, and shut your mouth. ‘I know my rights, you can’t address me that way and now I’ll make a complaint against you in internal affairs,’ I argued. That was enough for the brutality to increase. With violence, they handcuffed me. Around me, colleagues, teachers and neighbors began to protest. I felt fear, shame and indignation. People who defended me were also threatened and coerced into not registering what was happening. They threw me in the car.
Inside the car, I argued that they should have assessed whether or not the car was mine, since the complaint was that I was stealing the vehicle. They decided to go back. I demanded that there were witnesses, afraid that they would plant something in my car. At that moment, a significant group had formed around the action and the police requested re-enforcement from another vehicle. (There were) threats of arrest for whoever opposed (them) increased. The whole time I was handcuffed, although at no time had I physically resisted arrest. They wanted to humiliate and embarrass me. They succeeded.
They told my friends that they would take me to the police station on Pouso Alegre street, but they took me to a police station on Coração Eucarístico. There, a lieutenant appeared and took my picture on his phone. ‘This is for my personal record,’ he said in a threatening tone. In the police report, I was accused of contempt of authority, disobedience and resistance. I tried to leave with my backpack from the station. They wanted to search it again, away from me.
When I was in the car, I heard the sergeant, ‘you will pay some food baskets to learn what the police is.’ At the time, I kept silent. Now, I respond:
I, like most black men and women of this country, know what the police is. I was arrested, embarrassed, humiliated and hurt because I’m black. Because, being black, I dared to have a car, drive it and refuse to apologize for it. Because, being black, I refused to be suspicious, taking mistreatment without protest. I have an opportunity to come here, to reverberate this violence, to have teachers of my college positioning themselves in my favor, to have the support of the Human Rights Commission of the Order of Lawyers of Brazil. The vast majority of young black men in this country, blacks, poor and peripheral (residents), can do little against the systematic violation of their bodies, integrity and dignity. Still, we are brothers of color and we know, very well, very early on, in the worst possible way, what the police is.”