By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Thousands assembled in the streets of several Brazilian cities on Thursday to mourn and protest the death of Rio city councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes.
The assassination made national and international headlines, as demonstrators demanded a thorough investigation into the murder and vowed to carry on Franco’s human rights work.
Chanting ‘they will not silence us’ demonstrators gathered in the center of Rio de Janeiro all through the day on Thursday to bid farewell to the lawmaker and her driver, killed on Thursday night after attending a town meeting on racism.
The commotion spread throughout the country, with other big groups gathering at São Paulo’s famous Avenida Paulista, in Brasilia’s Zumbi dos Palmares Square and Curitiba’s Santos Andrade Square.
Franco’s party PSOL (Socialist and Liberty Party) issued a statement stating that the Brazilian society’s reaction to the assassination was important and said it will continue to call for new protests until the murder has been solved.
“Today’s acts have shown that Brazil can no longer cope with police violence, impunity and political crimes. Every year hundreds of social fighters are executed barbarically and now also lawmakers. We could not tolerate this before and cannot (tolerate it) now,” said PSOL party president Juliano Medeiros.
Local media outlets compared Thursday’s nationwide protests to the demonstrations held after the assassination of union leader and environment activist Chico Mendes in 1988.
Many of those who took to the streets say that they hope that these two deaths will promote a national movement, just as U.S. students in Parkland, Florida formed a movement to protest against lenient gun laws after the shooting at one of the district’s high school last month.
For Julia Michaels, an American expatriate living in Rio, the comparison with the recent movement in the U.S. is inaccurate and a strong nationwide campaign against corruption and human rights violations is not likely. “The issue is different, more diffuse, with a lot of division within the political left and across the spectrum overall,” she told The Rio Times.
The author and journalist behind the Rio Real Blog says, however, that pressure from these demonstrators and international entities may help solve the crime quickly.
“What the protests will probably do is push the military interventors to act with greater urgency, to crack down on police violence and corruption, as well as the militias (which are often the same as ‘police violence and corruption’),” she concludes.
The assassination of Franco and her driver also received criticism from abroad. Throughout the day, international human rights agencies, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called for a rigorous investigation of the crime.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated that the investigation ‘must be transparent and credible and that the perpetrators of the crime should be brought to justice’.
A group of 52 European lawmakers asked the European Parliament’s presidency to suspend the on-going negotiations of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement until violence in Rio de Janeiro decreases.