By Chris Kudialis, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Friday (August 22nd), hundreds of Rio’s citizens participated in the second annual Marcha InterNacional contra o Genocídio do Povo Negro (International March against Genocide of the Black Population) in Manguinhos. The protest involved emotional speeches petitioning for the end of racism-motivated Afro-Brazilian killings, and a three-mile march that continued into the Grota favela in Complexo do Alemão.
Jonathan de Oliveira de Lima, a 19-year-old Manguinhos resident of Afro-Brazilian descent, was shot and killed on May 14th in a confrontation with UPP Police. His mother, Ana Paula Gomes de Oliveira, was one of several mothers participating in memory of their sons.
“Our goal is to put a stop to this genocide, this slaughtering of black youth in our communities,” Gomes told EBC. “It’s a fight against murder, because what we’re seeing, more than anything, is blacks being killed.”
In Brazil, according to the Map of Violence 2014, the number of black victims is much higher than that of whites. The report indicates 146.5 percent more blacks than whites died in Brazil in 2012 in situations such as homicides, traffic accidents or suicide. Between 2002 and 2012, this victimization more than doubled, according to the study.
Also involved in the protest was Professor Leonardo Bueno, a member of Manguinhos’ Social Forum which encourages political participation from its 40,000 residents. According to Bueno, the march exists not only to fight racism, but to support human rights and the right to life. Bueno says such rights are too often violated in Rio de Janeiro, and especially in Manguinhos. “People [are unhappy] with what’s going on,” Bueno said. “And we’ve created a strong social movement to organize ourselves against right to life violations.”
Other Rio neighborhoods, especially in the city’s favela communities, have also been in recent protest against alleged racism-related violence. On August 5th, 21-year-old Jorge Ruan Vianna was shot in the shoulder by UPP Police in Complexo do Alemão. Vianna, an Afro-Brazilian favela resident, is employed as a waiter and has no known affiliation with the favela’s drug trafficking units.
“They mistook me for a traficante.” Vianna said in an interview with O Globo earlier this month. “This situation needs to change, so black residents are no longer denigrated. Not all black favela youth are selling drugs.”
Gunfire continues in Complexo de Alemão, with intense exchanges between traffickers and police taking place as recently as last week. Interviewed residents fear the continued police-traficante struggle will encourage future prejudice-based attacks.
“Unfortunately it gives [police] more leeway to kill people,” said Robson Miranda, age 20, in an interview with The Rio Times. “And since there’s a strong prejudice against black youth, innocent black males are often wrongly persecuted.”
Perhaps the most recent internationally infamous Afro-Brazilian youth murder at the hands of police came in April, when the death of television dancer Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira sparked a massive protest against UPP patrol and racism in Pavão-Pavãozinho. As residents set fire to cars and showered homemade explosives onto local roads, at least one other innocent black resident, 27-year-old Edilson Silva dos Santos, was also killed.
“The police beat my friend to death, just like they’ve tortured and killed in other communities,” said Johanas Mesquita, a 23-year-old resident of Pavão-Pavãozinho to the Associated Press at the time of the event. “Police violence is only replacing what the drug gangs carried out before.”
“It’s an issue we’ll always have to deal with, as long as traficantes and police continue this war,” added Danilo Marinho, 34.