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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Brazil Had Its Own “George Floyd” and They’re Protesting, Too

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Brazilian Black Lives Matter protestors continue to march in the streets of San Paolo and they want the world to know that their lives matter, too.

In the United States, the death of George Floyd sparked protests across the country. But a week before Floyd’s homicide, Brazil was in a state of grief, mourning the loss of 14-year-old João Pedro Mattos Pinto, an innocent bystander gunned down by local police in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro.

On May 18, João Pedro was playing with his cousins when drug dealers jumped the wall to flee federal agents. The officers fired at the suspects, striking João Pedro in the stomach area.

“They used these kids for target practice,” family friend, Gláucio Ribeira, told The Guardian following his death.

Ilona Szabo, executive director of the Igarapé Institute, a security think tank based in Rio, said that Black lives do not matter in Brazil.

“Police violence goes back to this complex way of accepting that some lives matter less than others,” she told the BBC.

João Pedro’s death is just one of many acts of police violence against Brazil’s Black population.

Last week, a police officer in São Paulo was filmed stepping on the neck of a Black woman in her fifties in a brutal display of defiance. The small bar owner was then placed in handcuffs before the officer dragged her across the pavement.

The incident triggered a national outcry, leading to an announcement from the governor of São Paulo, João Doria, that 2,000 state police officers would be equipped with body cameras beginning Aug 1.

“I want to make it clear that the State of São Paulo does not tolerate and will not tolerate any behavior that is violence practiced by the Military Police, the Civil Police, the Fire Department or any other police that is under the command of the State of São Paulo,” Doria said.

The body cameras are a start, but they have done little to curb the acts of police brutality against Black men. Szabo said that harmful stereotypes are deeply embedded in their culture.

“The stereotype of the criminals, in general, is that they are Black men,” she said. “So when you are in a very violent society like Brazil, being faced with a Black criminal, it might lead to the excessive use of force by the police, because that’s the portrayal we accept. But I would say there is a part of society that supports this openly.”

Demonstrators have condemned the police assaults on the favelas as “genocide” of Brazil’s Black youth. It’s been weeks, but Brazil’s Black community continues to take to the streets, protesting in the name of justice.

“Black lives matter here, too,” they chant.

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