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Brazil's Black lives matter too

  • 11 June 2020
While the streets of America burn in the wake of George Floyd’s public lynching, a lesser known tragedy is playing out in Brazil. As COVID-19 ravishes the South American behemoth, home to the second largest number of infections worldwide, police and military forces continue spilling the blood of Black youths.

On May 18th, a week before Big Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis policemen, Rio de Janeiro’s notorious Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE) and federal agents stormed the Complexo do Salgueiro favelas. Thirteen suspects were killed. João Pedro, just 14 years old, was in his aunt’s living room during the police operation. He, along with his cousin and friends, were playing video-games, obeying state-imposed quarantine measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Still, policemen invaded the residence and fired at least 72 rounds. A 5.56mm caliber round pierced his back. Moments later he was rushed to a police helicopter and airlifted away from the scene.

Family members and friends frantically searched hospitals in the region but to no avail. Pleas were made on social media concerning João’s whereabouts. Seventeen hours would go by before the teenager’s corpse appeared at the morgue.

My nephew was a black youth, but just because he’s black doesn’t mean that he’s a criminal,’ Denise Roza, João Pedro’s aunt, told reporters.

Like the murder of George Floyd, João Pedro’s execution and lethal techniques employed by law enforcement on Black communities are not isolated incidents. Coverage remains lax to non-existent. Only now has it been reported that Minneapolis police officers have used neck restraints on 428 people since 2012. That’s to say, what happened to George Floyd, to one degree or another, occurred, on average, once a week over the past eight years. Fifty-eight people lost consciousness.

Last year Rio de Janeiro’s police force set a new record. At least 1,546 people were killed by those tasked with protecting and serving. I reiterate at least because the body count is calculated from January to October 2019, according to the Instituto de Segurança Pública. Black youths comprised the majority of the victims. ‘The more the state kills, the more it strikes... black youths in favelas,’ said Daniel Lozoya, a member of Rio de Janeiro’s Public Defenders Office.

'That the police murders of João Pedro and Ágatha Félix were somehow unworthy for headlines speaks volumes about the fifth estate in this day and age. How are stories selected? And who selects them?'

Does nine-year-old Ágatha Félix