56-year-old black man forced to strip down to his underwear to prove he didn’t steal anything in a supermarket
By Marques Travae with info courtesy of Noticia Preta and Veja SP
Black. Brazil. Supermarket. Unfortunately, when these words are used together but I immediately have wonder what happened. I don’t really like to focus too much on everyday cases of racism and humiliation that black Brazilians go through on a daily basis because I simply don’t have the energy to devote to such incidents every day. But sometimes these incidents are so absurd that I have to talk about it. Another example of what how blackness is seen in Brazil.
The archives of this blog already have a number of appalling incidents involving black Brazilians shopping in stores or malls and how they are often followed around, harassed, humiliated or even killed by security agents. It hasn’t yet been a year since João Alberto Silveira Freitas was assaulted and killed by security guards in the city of Porto Alegre.
Then there was the incident of a young black man who stripped naked and whipped as if this were the slave era. Another incident that made headlines was the 19-year-old who was suffocated by security agent who laid on top him until he died. These few incidents don’t even scratch surface of how common this and this also doesn’t include other businesses, such as banks that are infamous for mistreating black Brazilians.
So, when I saw the video of this incident a few days ago, all I could really do was shake my head. I mean, of course this wasn’t racially motivated. The man at the center of the controversy just happened to be black. I know. So, let’s get to what exactly happened.
A few days ago, a 56 year-old black man was forced to strip down to his underwear by security guards of the Assai Atacadista supermarket, in the city of Limeira located in the state of São Paulo, to prove that he hadn’t stolen anything. The victim was ordered to take off all his clothes, inside the store, and in the middle of other customers who filmed the whole action of the market employees.
According to a report, the man, metalworker Luiz Carlos da Silva, was approached by two security guards, who suspected that he was hiding products to steal them. They would have asked the metalworker to take off his blouse at first, but followed with suspicion. “I opened my jacket, and he said: ‘can you lift your shirt?’ I said yes, I lifted my shirt, and they kept looking at each other. If they had started talking before that I showed them ‘excuse me, you can leave’, but they started looking at each other with that distrust”, he said in an interview.
In the video, it’s possible to hear the indignation of the people who tried to intervene in the situation, but were prevented from doing so by the security guards and another employee of the establishment.
Afterwards, da Silva said he got very upset, and took other pieces of clothing and items out of his pocket to end the suspicions. The moment was recorded. “Did I steal something in this store, dammit?! I came here to buy something and they call me a thief! Look here (points to his belongings and clothes on the floor), is there anything here?” he shouts while surrounded by employees and wearing only his underwear.
Luiz da Silva is a resident of Iracemápolis and went to downtown Limeira to research prices at the wholesaler. “I walked around the whole market, researched the prices, and found it too expensive. Finding it too expensive, I was already leaving, I had no bag. As I was wearing a cap and a long shirt, I was leaving and two security guards said: ‘can you pull over there to see if you have anything under your shirt? “It made me want to fight, but in my mind, if I’m going to fight, I’m wrong. So, I started to cry because I couldn’t hit, fight, or do anything.”
“Another aberration in Atacadão Assai; in broad daylight they forced a black citizen to undress to prove that he didn’t steal. Words fail to express my revolt. They are worms, miserable, they are racists, they are cowards,” commented one of the people who posted the video.
In the audio of the video, many people shout against the security guards and a woman repeats “you have to call the police”. In the police report it was written that the black man was approached by two security guards due to the suspicion that the customer had stolen products from the store last Friday afternoon (06), when they approached him and forced him to undress. The occurrence was registered the next day, Saturday (07), as embarrassment, according to the Civil Police, because there was no evidence of racial slur against the employees.
The victim’s wife, in an interview with the EPTV newspaper, said that the security guards claimed that the suspicion was due to the man having left the supermarket without buying anything. She also said that the man had left the house in order to research the prices of products.
In a note, the company apologized for the embarrassment caused to the victim and said that, “as an immediate decision, still over the weekend, an internal investigation process was opened, the employee responsible for the approach was removed and, today, his dismissal was concluded”. Assai Atacadista also said that it contacted the customer’s family as soon as it learned of the incident, apologizing and making itself available for any needs he may have.
In the note, the wholesale company emphasizes that the company does not tolerate approaches “that make any value judgment regarding social class, sexual orientation, race, gender or any other characteristic.
Also by note, the Department of Public Safety (SSP) of São Paulo reported that the Civil Police said that the nature of the occurrence was typified from the information given at the time of registration, and may be changed during the investigations. “Teams from the unit are in diligence to obtain images, as well as to identify witnesses and others involved in the facts. The victim will be heard to give more details about the case, as well as the security guards of the commercial establishment,” says the note.
Violence in supermarkets
In April of this year, Bruno Barros da Silva and Yan Barros da Silva, uncle and nephew respectively, were killed after being handed over by the security guards of Atakadão Atakarejo, in Salvador, Bahia, to drug dealers in the region. The two had been caught by the employees stealing pieces of meat.
A few months earlier, in November 2020, João Alberto Silveira Freitas, a 40-year-old black man, was killed in the parking lot of a Carrefour supermarket in the city of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande Do Sul, by security guards. Six people were indicted for triple murder for the crime, and last week, the supermarket chain was ordered to pay about BRL 3 million in fees to the lawyers of the Educafro NGO and Centro Santo Dias, civil entities that participated in the elaboration of the agreement signed after João Alberto’s death. João Alberto’s widow will also be compensated.