Note from BW of Brazil: I don’t really know that any words can suffice for the senselessness of the violence in Rio de Janeiro, but before getting into the latest tragedy, I wanted to share something that caught my attention from a previous Military Police murder of a child. The story is about 10-year old Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira who was gunned down in the Complexo do Alemão region of Rio last April. Here’s a brief excerpt taken from two sources, A Tarde, a newspaper based in the northeastern state of Bahia and another from the New York Times, that featured the same story in a May 21st report on police violence in Brazil.
Eduardo de Jesus was on his doorstep in Complexo do Alemão, a vast maze here of cinder block homes, when his mother heard the loud blast of gunfire. Seconds later, she saw Eduardo, 10, lying dead from a gunshot wound to the head, and she ran toward the police officer holding the gun.
“I grabbed him by the vest and yelled, ‘You killed my boy, you wretch,’ ” said his mother, Terezinha Maria de Jesus, 40. “He told me, ‘Just as I killed your son, I can kill you, too,’ as he pointed his rifle at my head,” she continued. “I told him: ‘Go ahead. You just killed part of me. Take the rest.’”
For Terezinha returning to the house where her family lived before the tragedy was only one of the difficult moments faced during the reconstitution of the crime on Friday, the 17th (April). Terezinha reveals that, at the time, she recognized the policeman she claims killed Eduardo among one of the eleven Military Police soldiers that, hooded, also participated in the simulated reproduction.
“It was horrible. I got to see him because it was he who said that he could kill me just as he had killed my son,” she said. “I could see through the hood, that he was black, tall. It was very painful,” recalled Eduardo’s mother.
She says that she has not yet been informed by the Civil Police of the date of a possible confrontation in which she can recognize the MP before the investigators. But when that day comes, she hopes to ask two questions – and said she won’t forgive the police.
“I want to ask two questions of him: the first is if he has no children, if he is not a father,” she said. “Then I’ll ask him the second question, if forgiving him would bring my son back. If he had the condition to bring my son back, I forgive him. He’s a monster. What he did has no forgiveness,” Terezinha vents.
Note from BW of Brazil: The NY Times piece went on to cite how police murders in Brazil dwarf numbers from the United States even though the US has 100 million more people than Brazil. The piece also noted how, in general, Brazilians don’t seem to react to these police murders with the same indignation that has been seen in recent cases in Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri, in the US. Both issues have been raised (here and here) on this blog as well as another facet of these murders pointed out by Presbyterian pastor Antônio Carlos Costa, who helps track cases of children under 14 murdered by police. From the same NYT piece, Costa was quoted as saying:
“Of course, the sense of outrage would be different if these victims were boys with blond hair and blue eyes who lived in rich areas, but they were not. The children, adolescents and adults killed by the police in Brazil are victims of a massacre in which the casualty figures are higher than in some war zones.”
The question of black Military Police victimizing Afro-Brazilian citizens has also been raised here and brings to the fore another facet of the question of identity. In a country where non-whites have long been indoctrinated with the idea that everything black is bad and that the best way out of the “curse” of being black is the attempt to whiten one’s self. For some, this whitening means marrying white to produce white or at least, less black children, and also adapting the values, mores and beliefs of the dominant culture. As such, could it be possible that what we are seeing is a classic case of one identifying with the oppressor? The second issue/question for me would be, as violent police murders are so common in Brazil, how are these men and women trained to assume such attitudes that lack compassion toward the lives of everyday citizens, (particularly when the victims look like them)? I mean, aren’t police people too? Jus’ sayin’….The last thing that caught my attention about today’s piece is the fact that the police operation that recently resulted in the deaths of two more black males is called “Black Machine III” (in English no less). One must wonder, with the outrageous numbers of black males murdered by police in Rio (and Brazil in general), if the operation wouldn’t be better known as “Black Killing Machine”!
Police operation leaves two dead in Ilha do Governador region of Rio
Civil police to issue search and seizure warrants ends with two fatalities in the Morro do Dendê
By Diego Valdevino, Luarlindo Ernesto and Tiago Frederico
Two residents of Morro Dendê were killed in a Civil Police mega-operation carried out on Tuesday morning, in the Ilha do Governador favela slums which was intended to seize slot machines and issue search and seizure warrants. Wanderson Jesus Martins, 23, and Gilson Costa, only 12 years old, according to family members and residents, were killed by shots fired by police who were standing near an armored vehicle, after shots taken by a helicopter didn’t hit victims, that were mistaken for criminals. Residents also report the existence of a third death, however, the police have not confirmed this information.
To O Dia (news), Wanderson’s sister, Paola Jesus Aparecida de Melo, 16, told how the man, who was a fisherman and received an assinado carteira de trabalho (signed working papers) on the 4th as a porter, was killed.
“Wanderson was going to buy bread for his 4-year old son. Suddenly, a Civil (Police) helicopter came down. He and the minor were frightened and ran into a house that has a bakery. The police didn’t even ask if he was worker. They came in shooting in cowardice. They executed my brother. It wasn’t a stray bullet, it was a homicide,” she said.
Student and resident of Morro do Dendê, Cristiane de Melo, 18, confirms the thesis of Wanderson’s sister. “They took several shots to all over the place. They shot at random. One of them hit the rear window of my father’s car that was parked. I couldn’t even leave the house I was so scared,” she said.
President of the Associação de Moradores do Morro do Dendê (neighborhood association), Fernando Nilton Alves, 40, described the operation as a “strategy error”. “With a helicopter, the Civil Police thought it could distinguish a criminal from a worker. There is no way to differentiate. It was a wrong operation of the Civil Police which resulted in the death of two people,” he said, unhappy.
Protests after deaths
After the deaths, about 50 residents descended from Morro do Dendê carrying bags and scattered trash in the entrance of the favela. One of the protesters was held in contempt and aggression on a Military Police soldier. He was taken to the 37th Precinct (Ilha do Governador). During the act, the protesters punched and kicked police and Civil Defense buses and cars. Some even threw stones into the air. Every time, they asked for “justice” and called the police killers.
A vehicle of the 4th Precinct (Praça da República) became surrounded by protesters and was struck with kicks, but the police did not react. Residents closed down Rua Tenente Cleto Campelo (street) in Cacuia, causing a large traffic jam. On the Cacuia Highway, some shop owners closed their doors. In the 37th Precinct door, there was reinforcement in policing with five cars, but no confrontations were recorded.
Around 2:30pm, the protesters closed Vistula Street, in front of the police station and some sat on the ground. Others covered their faces hoods. They carried signs with slogans like: ” Gilson Costa, morto enquanto saiu para comprar coentro” (Gilson Costa, killed while out buying cilantro) and “Justiça pelo Gilson e Vanderson” (Justice for Gilson and Vanderson). Most held hands and made a line in the local door asking for justice.
“My mother is better now, she’s already cried, settled down, the reality has set in. His girlfriend is in a state of shock. Wanderson’s son, 4, already knows that his father died. He’s with a neighbor of ours,” said a relative of the fisherman.
“They were friends and were in that bakery that operates in the yard of a house. Wanderson had gone to buy bread for his son to go to school. When the police helicopter began shooting, they hid inside a bathroom at the bakery, afraid. The police, who were on foot, sent they come out of the bakery. Once Wanderson came out, the police shot at him. They shot him in the leg first in the leg and then in the stomach,” he reported.
Lt. Col. Wagner Nunes, commander of the 17th BPM (Ilha) explained how the demonstration began and explained that although the Military Police were present, the operation that resulted in the death of two people was carried out by the Civil Police.
“The protest began within the Palm community in Dendê, on Rua Graná (street), where locals managed to set fire to some objects like chairs. After, the action was controlled by the MP, they resumed the protest. Unfortunately, during the demonstration, some people threw stones. The MP only set the stage for the operation of the Civil Police, in Dendê, that resulted in two dead. It was just support,” he said.
In a statement, the Civil Police said the operation, dubbed Black Machine III occurred in the communities of Dendêm, Barbante, Bancários and Boogie Woogie, among other locations in the Ilha do Governador area. Four police officers participating in the operation, which was supported by agents of the Coordenadoria de Recursos Especiais (CORE or Coordination of Special Resources) and units of the Departamento Geral de Polícia Especializada (DGPE or General Department of Specialized Police), and Military Police. In previous editions of the action, about 650 gambling machines were seized.