Note from BW of Brazil: Once again, a black man is tied to a pole and brutally beaten to the death by an angry mob. Another statistic in a shockingly common practice of vigilante justice in Brazil. So how should we interpret these types of murders? Are they symptomatic of a country that many believe is lawless in itself? Is it a reaction of those who feel that those who should be protecting them against crime and thus take the law into their own hands? Is it a symptom of persons who feel powerless against the power structure that they feel doesn’t represent them and thus act out against the same powerless people (who in reality are part of their own group) that cannot defend themselves? There are many ways to look at this, the latest in a growing number of public lynchings of perceived criminals. More than a few people have made the connection between this latest public termination of a black life to the situation of black Brazilians during nearly four centuries of slavery in the country. And for good reason.
A few days ago we presented a story as yet another example of how race factors into public opinion when a violent crime is committed by a black Brazilian versus when it is committed by a white Brazilian. And of course some people will argue that this latest lynching, like previous ones, is not about race. That may or may not be true. We cannot say what this lynch mob may have yelled at this victim as they ended his life, but we do know that, as black life is clearly deemed less valuable in Brazil, there is indeed a racial element to the incident.
Assault suspect is tied to pole and beaten to death in Maranhão
The guy was assaulted with punches, kicks, stones and broken bottles, didn’t resist and lost his life while still in the same location, because of a hemorrhage. This is not the first case carried out by “justiceiros” (vigilantes): in 2014, at least three similar cases made headlines.
Courtesy of Revista Fórum
A man who had committed an assault in São Luís, Maranhão on Monday (July 5th) was tied to a post and beaten to death by a group of people. Another suspected of having committed the crime, a teenager, was also lynched by the population, was handed over to the Delegacia do Adolescente Infrator (DAI or Precinct of Adolescent Offender) with bruises all over his body.
According to the Civil Police, the victim was Cleydison Pereira Silva, 29. He had his clothes torn and hands, legs and torso tied to a lamppost. Assaulted with punches, kicks, stones and broken bottles he didn’t resist and was died while still in the same location because of a hemorrhage.
Cleydison’s father recognized his son’s body and said he knew of his involvement with crime. Police are investigating the case, through the Homicide Police of Maranhão capital city, trying to identify the perpetrators of the murder.
Cleydison is far from being the first target of “justiceiros” (vigilantes) in Brazil: in 2014, at least three similar episodes made national headlines. In January, a black teenager, also suspected of having committed a robbery, was tied to a pole by 14 in the Flamengo region of Rio de Janeiro, and lynched afterwards. The following month, in Teresina, capital city of Piauí, a man suspected of robbery, after being beaten, was flung over an anthill with his hands and arms tied – at the time, a foreign newspaper referred to the case as “justiça à brasileira” (Brazilian-styled justice). In May, in Guaruja, on the São Paulo coast, Fabiane Maria de Jesus was murdered after being lynched by several people. That’s because a popular Facebook page, with local news, released a rumor that she was responsible for abducting children to “practice black magic.” Just in the first half of 2014 50 cases were recorded.
* With information from Extra
Lynching as a symptom
The real crime committed by Cleydison Pereira Silva, beaten to death by vigilantes on Monday in Maranhão, is not under the Penal Code. His murder lays bare the crisis of representation of which the country lives and the selectivity of such a righteous indignation as timely.
By Murilo Cleto
It happened again. Cleydison Pereira Silva was tied to a post and beaten to death by a group of people in São Luis, the capital of Maranhão. Contrary to what is preached, his crime was not robbery. In fact, it may even have been one of them, but not the most important. For the crime of assault, the Brazilian legislation can order 4-30 years of imprisonment, as appropriate, in accordance with the Criminal Code.
But it’s not this crime that is Cleydison’s sentence. 4 to 30 years would not be enough to satisfy the desire for justice of those who tore his clothes, threw stones and bottles at him and beating him until he bled to death from a hemorrhage.
In Linchamentos: a justiça popular no Brasil (Lynching: popular justice in Brazil) (Contexto, 2015), the sociologist José de Souza Martins buries the myth of the cordial Brazilian for good: the country is the one that most practices justiçamentos in the world. According to his research, one million compatriots have participated in lynchings in 60 years. And even though the early 2000s has made a significant drop in cases from 2013 to now they have increased in progressive velocity and it’s no accident.
For researcher Ariadne Lima Natal of the Núcleo de Estudos da Violência of USP (Violence Studies Center at the University of São Paulo), there is a correlation between the presence of the state and indexes of justiçamento. Where the absence of its service is most felt, the chances of reactive violence increase exponentially. And it is in this sense that the media’s role needs to be questioned.
Before zeroing deaths by traffic in the country, Uruguay restricted the hours of police programs. In Brazil, as well as strengthening the idea of impunity and feeding the imagination of a juvenile enticed by crime, they transmit and encourage live and unrestricted slaughter of suspects shot in cold blood under the roars of ecstatic hosts. Journalist Rachel Sheherazade became a moral reference in defending the actions of Flamengo vigilantes on national television in SBT TV.
With a Ph.D in security studies and a professor at the Instituto Universitário de Pesquisas (University Research Institute) of Rio de Janeiro, Jaqueline Muniz de Oliveira maintains that lynching is a “phenomenon that always resurfaces before waves of fear. Facing fear, we want an immediate solution, and we tend to make our rules [laws].”
The higher the highlight of stories of violence experienced by the country, the greater the feeling that the state is no longer trustworthy enough so that justice acts on its own, hence the recurrence of measures that break with the prevailing social contract.
And if there’s anything left of that 2013 legacy for the country it’s the opening wide of the complete dissonance between the institutions whose function is to guarantee social rights, including the safety, and the people who took to the streets with distinctive voices, but that kept an important chorus announcement: the State does not represent you.
30% of the demonstrators would vote for Joaquim Barbosa for presidency of the republic. Even without his presenting a party affiliation. He who legally challenged the acting outside the margin of the law in the process of the PT (Worker’s Party) mensalão scandal to force convictions, and popularly acclaimed for satisfying the desire for justice long stuck in the throat of Brazilians. Not coincidentally, he was related to the superhero Batman, a character who has reappeared frequently in protests against the Dilma government.
What were three or four attempts at lynching has become more than one per day since 2013. And very much deceived or wants to be deceived anyone who says we could be dealing with an uncontested reflection of the unpopularity of the president: at the end of the year that marked the Jornadas de Junho, 95.1% claimed they didn’t trust political captions. After the catastrophe, about 70% remain skeptical of politicians and parties.
In periods of crisis of representation, the feeling that it is necessary that one not comply with the law in order for the law to be restored grows. It’s what Christian Dunker indicates in Mal-Estar, Sofrimento e Sintoma: uma psicopatologia do Brasil entre muros (Malaise, Pain and Symptom: a psychopathology of Brazil between walls). According to the analyst, living in condominiums, typically a Brazilian mode of living from the 1970s, contributed significantly to the worsening of this panorama. The Brazil that didn’t work out, of the poverty that insists on cluttering the path, was suspended on behalf of another which is protected by high walls and a guardhouse with cameras. And it’s this Brazil which is now guided about the other from the image that he made: too dangerous for common rules that govern him.
Batman is this. It is the feeling that the social contract that orients the country is insufficient to meet the demand. It is “necessary” to breach the law on behalf of the values that sustain it.
But Ariadne Christmas Lima, who authored the dissertation 30 anos de Linchamento na Região Metropolitana de São Paulo 1980-2009 (30 years of Lynching in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo 1980 to 2009), highlights an important element to intrigue those who believe lynchings are justifiable when faced with the saturation of violence in the country: “The data show that victims of lynching are not random. The prime targets are the same as affected by police violence and homicides. Lynchings dialogue with their time, they are part of a reality and trigger a repertoire that shows who the exterminable are.”
In the sense of justice that moves the country against crime, middle-class whites are almost not convicted. Their place is under the Penal Code. And that’s why Cleydison’s last crime was assault. Before that, he was born in the wrong place and in the wrong color skin. He died at 29, 44 earlier than his life expectancy at birth, and in the forecast, he would have 3.7 times more likelihood of being killed while still young. On the one hand, he became a trophy; on the other, a statistic.