Every 23 minutes a black person is murdered in Brazil and all too often the police are responsible for the killing.
The Brazilian Senate commissioned a report that concluded “the Brazilian state, directly or indirectly, perpetrates the genocide of the young black population.”
Brazil’s war on drugs and gangs has targeted the poor and black residents of favelas, terrorizing the residents, turning the areas into war zones with military tanks, police checkpoints, with cops brandishing riot gear and automatic weapons. Investigations into drug trafficking and money laundering in Brazil find the main culprits not in the favelas, but at the highest levels of Brazilian businesses and politics. Brazil’s government has turned a blind eye, while Rio’s police killed 8,000 people this past decade 75 percent of them were black men. For comparison, it took U.S. law enforcement 30 years to kill the same number of people.
Marielle Franco, a Afro-Brazilian councilwoman, rose from the violence of one of Rio de Janeiro’s poorest favelas, as a vocal critic of police brutality and an advocate for gender equality. Expounding a burning frustration in the country, denouncing police brutality, confronting racism and promoting women’s rights. She embodied the potential for what Brazil could become rather than what it was.
The federal government took over responsibility for Rio’s security in February. Franco criticized the intervention of thousands of armed men into an environment already struggling with extreme violence. Just days before her vehicle was shot up by unknown assailants, Franco publicly called the police unit the “death battalion” and accused it of killing young men in the favela. The day before her assassination she tweeted an ominous question after a young man was killed by the police as he left church, “How many more need to die for this war to end?”
She was assassinated on March 14. Since then, tens of thousands of Brazilians have taken to the streets holding signs that read “Vidas Negras Importam” (Black Lives Matter) and “Marielle Presente” (Marielle is here).
A promising young politician unceremoniously executed in a drive-by a few feet away from City Hall for merely daring to do what a leader should do — advocate for the rights of society’s most vulnerable people.