The killing of a Black teenager in Brazil, which has a long history of police violence against Afro-Brazilians, sparked a movement to protect Black lives. This comes against the backdrop of a new law-and-order Brazilian president coming to power with an anti-Black agenda.
Demonstrators rallied in five major cities in Brazil after the death on Feb. 14 of 19-year-old Pedro Gonzaga whom a supermarket security guard choked—fueling a Black Lives Matter movement, the Guardian reported.
It’s unclear exactly what led to the confrontation. The security guard reportedly used a sleeper hold on Gonzaga, who died of a heart attack at a hospital. A video showed at least one bystander pleading with the security guard to stop. “He is suffocating him,” a woman is heard saying on a video of the incident. Gonzaga was taken unconscious to the hospital.
Parallels to Eric Garner, the unarmed African-American man who died after a New York City cop used a chokehold to arrest him, were widely noted by the demonstrators.
“There has never been a Black Lives Matter [movement] in Brazil to compare to the United States, but this year I think it will happen more often because the black community is more and more united,” Rene Silva, a protest organizer in Rio, said.
In July 2018, Amnesty International, a global human rights organization, noted that police killings of Black youths in Brazil continue 25 years after the infamous Candelária massacre, in which eight young boys were killed by off-duty police officers in Rio de Janeiro. The incident sparked international outrage, yet little has changed more than two decades later.
“The struggle to protect Black Brazilian youths from police violence and deliver justice for the victims of the past remains as vital and relevant as ever,” Amnesty International said.
Unfortunately, things seem unlikely to change any time soon. In January, far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro, who was once on trial for racism, was sworn in as Brazil’s president. He has a long history of making hateful comments about women, the LGBT community and Afro-Brazilians.
In April 2018, Brazil’s attorney general charged him with inciting hatred and discrimination. In one instance, Bolsonaro insulted Black descendants of rebel African slaves called quilombolas and expressed regret about their legal protections. However, a court dismissed the lawsuit during his presidential campaign in September.
Before taking office, Bolsonaro signaled one of his policy targets: Brazil’s affirmative action program, according to Bloomberg News.