Brazil’s Black Lives Matter Moment

| Resist!

Above Photo: Protesters lay down at the entrance of an Extra supermarket in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais. | Photo: Twitter @vozdacomunidade

    Protests of the killing of a young Black man could be Brazil’s answer to Black Lives Matter.

    Hundreds protested Sunday in cities across Brazil in what commentators are calling Brazil’s Black Lives Matter moment, sparked by the death of a young Black man as a result of restraining choke hold used by a supermarket security guard.

    Pedro Gonzaga, 19, a young Black Brazilian man was put into a chokehold when confronted by two security guards at an Extra supermarket in the affluent neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Feb. 14. The chokehold left him asphyxiated and he collapsed in front of his mother. He later died in the hospital of a heart attack, according to the Guardian.

    The store and the security guards have claimed that the young man reached for a gun, but video evidence, showing a blocked angle, does not explicitly support that claim.

    Protesters angry at the treatment of Black citizens in Brazil, often the targets of police violence, gathered outside of Extra supermarkets in different capitals around the country including Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and Fortaleza.

    The calls to protest, published on social media, called for, “activists, young Black people, people with empathy for the Black struggle, and anyone who is angry” to meet in front of the supermarkets to call attention to the violence against Black people.

    “Activists in Belo Horizonte put themselves at the entrance and inside the Extra supermarket at Francisco Sales Ave., by the neighborhood of Santa Efigenia.”  

    Last week an 11-year-old Black girl was killed in an incident in which residents claimed to have been perpetrated by police. The week before police also executed 13 unarmed men in a Rio favela.

    Witnesses to the event were said to have been pleaded for the security guards to let the young man go, and some compared it to the case of Eric Garner in New York, who was choked to death by New York City police for selling cigarettes on the street. The chant of “I can’t breath” became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter, and it’s Portuguese equivalent, “Ele Nao Esta Respirando,” has also become a slogan for Gonzaga’s death.

    The security guard responsible for the choking was arrested but let out on bail for 10,000 reais (US$2,700). He is expected to be charged on manslaughter, not homicide.

    According to government statistics complied in the 2018 annual Violence Atlas, 71.5% of the 64,000 people killed each year in Brazil are black or mixed race. Black or mixed race people make up just over half of the Brazilian population.