Demonstrators took the streets across Brazil this weekend to protest the killing of João Alberto Silveira Freitas, a Black man and father of four, by security officers.
According to a report from the Washington Post, videos taken by witnesses to the incident show 40-year-old Freitas being held down and beaten bloody by officers working at a grocery store called Carrefour in the city of Porto Alegre.
The man can be heard crying out, and he is forcefully brought to the blood-slicked ground and restrained. Video afterward shows emergency responders failing to resuscitate him.
The two guards, one of whom was an off-duty police officer, were arrested and are being investigated for homicide.
In a country increasingly reckoning with racism and the enduring imprint of its history of colonialism and slavery, the grisly beating of an unarmed Black man by two security guards reported to be White was met by rage and horror.
In Brazil, a country that boasts one of the largest populations of Black people in the world, about 80 percent of the citizens been killed by the country’s police forces last year were Black.
That helps explains why protestors there painted ‘Vidas Negras Importam’ (which translates to ‘Black Lives Matter’) on the streets of Sao Paolo as they protested the killing of Freitas, according to a report from AP.
Crowds of Brazilians also gathered for a funeral procession for the deceased on Saturday:
Funeral procession underway for João Alberto Silveira Freitas, the Afro-brazilian man lynched by Carrefour security guards in Porto Alegre, Brazil. pic.twitter.com/xO8k4XfVLM
— BrianMier (@BrianMteleSUR) November 21, 2020
Unsurprisingly, Brazil’s Trump-like President Jair Bolsonaro has responded to the unrest by denying that racism exists in the country.
Bolsonaro made no direct reference to the case. But in a video speech to the G-20 Summit on Saturday, he denied Brazil suffers from racism and complained of an unspecified movement seeking to “divide” Brazilians.
“As a man and as president, I see everyone in the same colors: (the Brazilian flag’s) green and yellow! There is no better skin color than the others. What exists are good men and bad men; and it is our choices and values that will determine which of the two we will be.”
His son Eduardo, however, sent a social media post accusing Brazilian leftists of using Freitas as “their George Floyd,” a reference to the man whose death at the hands of police set off protests this year across the United States.
The guards involved in Freitas’ death have been taken into custody and are reportedly being investigated for homicide. Carrefour, the grocery store where the beating of Freitas took place, says it has ended its contract with the security company that employed the officers.
“But these measures will not be enough. Racism and violence go completely against both my own values, and those of Carrefour,” said Carrefour Group CEO Alexandre Bompard, in a statement outlining plans for the company to do a review of its training policies with a view to diversity and tolerance.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?