Note from BW of Brazil: It’s been a while since this blog published a report about the murder of an innocent black man by Brazil’s brutal Military Police. But just for purposes of clarity here, please note that just because it isn’t always covered here, it doesn’t mean that these senseless murders don’t continue to happen. Let’s not forget that a black youth is murdered in Brazil every 23 minutes and as the signs featured in today’s post will remind you, Brazil’s police force among the most lethal in the world. Similar to statistics from recent reports in the United States where the murder of black people by police garners far more media coverage than in Brazil, persons of African descent in Brazil are also more at risk to die as a result of murder. But also don’t forget, Brazil’s police kill five times more than those in the United States!
After reading several articles about this incident that took place last week, I still can’t find a legitimate reason for why this young man had to die. Yet another police stray bullet claims another life an the police react to protesters as hey often do: with more violence!
24-year old black Economics students shot and killed by police; neighborhood protest is violently repressed by Military Police with tear gas and rubber bullets
Courtesy of Revista Fórum and Brasil de Fato
Matheus de Freitas was shot by police in a school of Jardim Novo Horizonte in the Grajaú region of São Paulo’s extreme south. Residents came together in a demonstration, but were contained with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Saturday, October 1st was supposed to be just another day off for university student Matheus Santos de Freitas, a 24-year old black male and his three friends. He wanted to enjoy the Saturday and jumped the wall of the Tancredo de Almeida Neves State School, in Grajaú, to meet friends. With no recreational areas, the community usually uses the school court to talk and play sports. There were never any problems.
Generally, Matheus and friends hung out on the court to play basketball. But that night they just wanted to exchange ideas. Talking back and forth, around 9pm they were surprised by three plainclothes police who were inside the school – according to an employee, to guard the electronic voting machines to be used in municipal elections the next day.
One of the officers approached the four young men saying they couldn’t stay there and shot at them, scaring everyone. Matheus who was shot, managed to jump one of the railings but fell shortly after.
“We came and they said that he had held a bar spear, and injured himself alone, and that it had been a visceral accident,” says Eduardo Tyler, who knew Matheus.
The ambulance took almost four hours, arriving only early Sunday morning (October 2nd). Witnesses said a rescue fire department was summoned and sent to the 7000 Avenida Paul Guilguer Reimberg – the school is located in 2200 region of the same address.
As noted by the report, the school bars are of iron and have no spears. The projectile from a .40 pistol was removed from Matheus’s body during surgery at Hospital Grajaú. An employee of EE Tancredo Neves confirmed that he had been struck by a shot from inside the school.
In a statement, the Secretariat of Public Security (SSP) admitted that the death was due to “opposition to police intervention,” as recorded at the 101st DP (precinct) of the Jardim das Imbuias. The case should be forwarded to the Delegacia de Homicídios e Proteção à Pessoa (DHPP or Division of Homicide and Protection of Persons).
Mateus died early Monday morning (the 3rd) at the Hospital of Grajaú and the officer who fired the shot has been put on leave from work and the case will go to the Police Homicide Department and Protection of Persons (DHPP). Like so many examples of murders of young black men, he could end up with impunity.
Such situations unfortunately are part of the routine of black youth on the outskirts of Brazilian cities. Data from the Mapa da ViolênciaMapa da Violência (Map of Violence) show that about 30,000 young people aged 15 to 29 years are killed every year in Brazil. Of these, 77% are black.
A study by the Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública (Brazilian Forum of Public Security) points out that between 2009 and 2013, Brazilian police killed 11,197 people in cases listed as autos de resistência – death registered as occurring in alleged confrontations in which police say they had shot to defend themselves.
The eldest of two children of evangelical parents, Matheus was a student of EE Tancredo Neves, was practiced jujitsu and left his job in the financial sector to dedicate himself to his last year of Economics faculty at the Centro Universitário Nove de Julho. He had plans to invest in the Bolsa de Valores (stock market) and had many ideas to improve the neighborhood itself.
“He believed very much in the neighborhood, that this situation was going to change, that we would open a skating track for the young boys. He would do the right things,” says Eduardo.
People on the street
With banners, posters and shouts against the Military Police (MP), they occupied part of a lane of Avenida Paulo Guilguer Reimberg.
By about 4:30pm, the protesters had completely closed the road. In less than 10 minutes, the MP Tactical Force released toxic gas and fired rubber bullets at the crowd – including infants, the elderly and workers who were trying to get home.
In addition to the general rush and people passing out, a street vendor who sells boiled corn at the bus stop was wounded in the head with a rubber bullet. After being taken to the hospital for a bandage, he later returned to his job.
Other residents were left with marks of rubber bullets and bits of the gas body on their bodies, while a protester was arrested for “contempt” while filming the MP’s actions – she was released hours later by the chief of the 85th Precinct.
Protesters tried to restart the protest, but they dispersed around 7pm. Police remained on site. Matheus’s friends promised new acts in search of justice.
Check out video produced by the group Periferia em Movimento (Periphery in Movement) about the death of Matheus.