Note from BBT: So, what came to my mind after I heard about this story a few days ago? A few things. 1, black people aren’t supposed to have the means to have anything. 2, if you’re black and in an upper-crust neighborhood, you’re automatically a ‘‘suspect’’. And 3, if something has been stolen, being black, you are guilty until proven innocent.
None of this is news as this blog has brought you numerous stories like this over years. Too many to even remember. Just a few that stick out in my mind were, first, when a guy was doing an experiment and people, assuming his was stealing his own car, wrestled him to the ground. There was the guy in the mall who dropped his pants to in a mall to prove he hadn’t stolen anything. Then there was the week in which there were three different incidents involving black people being falsely accused of theft. There are many more I could refer to, but you get the point.
The other thing about today’s case is that, as racial stereotypes rarely suspect persons of the Caucasian persuasion, they often slide by even when they’ve committed a crime. It also speaks to the fact that white people often receive sympathy or the benefit of the doubt even with white politicians and businessmen are caught in white collar crimes, or white drug addicts and homeless people are seen on the streets. I know people don’t like to see white privilege, but what would call this? Some time ago, I remember reading numerous comments by white Brazilians who admitted to petty crimes they had gotten away with after seeing a young black male being savagely whipped made headlines.
These confessions are very fitting, especially considering the real criminal in this case.
Surfer’s complaint about racism in Leblon generates outrage on the networks
With information courtesy of Correio Braziliense, Diário Do Noredeste, O Povo and Yahoo Notícias
Even after a surfing athlete showed photos and a bicycle key, the man and woman only left the place after they started to be filmed
Politicians, influencers and other users of social networks demonstrated against the racist act denounced by surf instructor Matheus Ribeiro. In a post also on social networks, the young black man reported that, on Saturday afternoon (June 12), while waiting for his girlfriend, Maria Eliza, at the door of Shopping Leblon, in Rio de Janeiro, he was approached by a couple who, according to Matheus, accused him of stealing a bicycle. The man and woman claimed that the bike he rode had been stolen. The electric bicycle is used by Matheus to move between surf lessons given at Team Bispo School and other places. His report resonated on Instagram and has taken the name “Leblon” to the 15 most talked about topics on Twitter.
“Out of nowhere these two young people appear with the following phrases: ‘You took that bike over there now, didn’t you?’, said the man; ‘yes, this bike is mine’, said the young woman”, says Matheus. The instructor said he was understanding and wanted to show the couple the mistake. He even showed old photos and the key to the bicycle lock, but the young people insisted on the accusation of theft.
At first, the man who made the accusation tried to open the lock, but when he noticed that the key he had didn’t work, he apologized.
“I didn’t accuse you, I’m just asking you,” said the guy as he returns the lock to the bicycle in the recorded images.
The couple only left Matheus when, according to him, the man tried, without the instructor’s authorization, to open the vehicle’s lock. “Frustrated by his attempt, he says he didn’t accuse me, after all, he was just asking…”, indignantly. The victim of the racist accusation recorded the final part of what happened, an action that made them leave the place after Matheus sent them away.
For Matheus, the accusation is the result of racism. “A black man on an electric bike? In Leblon? This disturbs the racist. They can’t understand how you are there without having stolen from them, no matter how much you prove it”, he points out. “She has no idea who took her bike, but the first thing that comes to her mind is that some neguinho (black guy) took it,” he adds.
Matheus is from Favela da Maré and, as a surfing athlete, he has already been to São Paulo, Bahia and El Salvador to surf. In January 2019, he was on the cover of the traditional newspaper in his community, Maré de Notícias, with the headline ‘The beach is also ours: Matheus Ribeiro surfs, teaches the sport and proves that the South Zone is also our territory ‘. (see note one) The instructor says he lives to encourage the dreams of children in Maré.
15 days ago, another racist situation with a young black man on a bicycle went viral on social media. In Goiás, youtuber Felipe Ferreira was stopped at gunpoint by a police officer after refusing to leave his bicycle. At the time, Felipe was recording maneuvers to post on his YouTube channel.
On Instagram, Matheus Ribeiro published to expose the case. “And for you, who are black like me, be careful when walking in places like this. They’ll blame you, so they’ll see what happened later,” he wrote in part of the caption.
Politicians and influencers echo the case
Activists, politicians and influencers opine on the case. The councilor of Rio de Janeiro Thais Ferreira (PSOL-RJ) shared the report and called the case absurd.
ABSURD! Surf instructor Matheus Ribeiro reported a case of racism he suffered this weekend. The young man, on a bicycle, was waiting for his girlfriend in front of Shopping Leblon until a couple came to ask him if the bicycle was really his. pic.twitter.com/0khpu2F56S
— Thais Ferreira (@southaferreira) June 14, 2021
Former BBB (Big Brother Brasil reality show) contestant Danrley Ferreira, a resident of the Rocinha community, asks followers what the reaction would be “if you had your bike and someone came and accused you of having stolen it”.
What would your reaction be if you had your bike and someone came out of nowhere and accused you of stealing it? pic.twitter.com/VAi8yRaXz9
— Danrley Ferreira (@Danrley) June 14, 2021
Renata Souza, state deputy and leader of the Psol party in the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro, said that the case has “the same logic as the racist penal system: you only have to be black to be suspect”.
This case of racism in Leblon against a young black man is absurd. A young white couple accused him of stealing their electric bike. They stopped only when they were recorded. It’s the same logic of the racist penal system: you only have to be black to be suspect. My solidarity and strength to the boy
— Renata Souza (@renatasouzario) June 14, 2021
Actress Heslaine Vieira of the Malhação television series questioned whether “someone stop a white man to question the ownership of a bicycle”. A black woman, she claims that racism has exhausted black men and women.
Racism racism racism. Every day. Don’t ask me to comment…we are exhausted. A couple from Leblon accusing a young man of having the wife’s bicycle simply because “he seems”. Someone stop a white man to question the ownership of a BICYCLE?! Racists
— Heslaine Vieira (@HeslaineVieira) June 14, 2021
Influencer and public safety researcher Breno Laerte was one of the first to share the story. He calls the accusers a “a little racist couple” and asks users of the social network to share the case. Laerte’s three tweets on the subject add up to around 57 thousand likes.
Companies fire couple who accused young black man of stealing bicycle in Rio de Janeiro
The teacher and the designer suspected of racism for accusing, without proof, a young black man of having stolen a bicycle were fired from the companies they worked for. The accusatory approach took place last Saturday (12), in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro. The information is from the newspaper O Globo.
The couple approached 22-year-old surf instructor Matheus Ribeiro to question him if the electric bicycle he used was not stolen. According to the newspaper, the woman even claimed to have the same bike, which had been stolen.
The video of the moment of the argument reverberated on social networks. In the face of pressure, Papel Craft said it had fired the employee, who was the brand’s frame designer.
And the Espaço Vibre art school, where the teacher worked, communicated on social networks that it repudiates the act. “Racism is a crime and we’re not going to condone it. The teacher involved in the act was fired and is no longer part of our staff”, read a note.
“We sympathize with Matheus for the pain he suffered and even though the reprehensible gesture didn’t occur within our space, this is a violence that we all have to fight together,” the note continued.
The occurrence was registered in the 14th DP, in Leblon, in Rio. Until the publication of this matter, only the woman involved in the case was summoned to provide clarification on Wednesday (16). She was the only one identified by the victim on record.
In an interview with O Globo, police chief Natacha Alves de Oliveira informed that the victim’s report was succinct and didn’t indicate racial criteria in its content. Therefore, it will only be possible to determine which crime will or will not be investigated after the depositions.
Depending on what is pointed out in the testimonials, the designer can be called.
According to a publication by the Extra newspaper, Matheus Ribeiro lives in Maré, but spends about six days a week in the South Zone because of the surf lessons he teaches at Arpoador.
“People who are black live with this type of situation forever. But it had never been so embarrassing, despite not being unprecedented,” commented the young man to the Rio newspaper.
“What I hope is that at the very least the people who did this are aware of what they’re doing. My intention at the police station is not to get a basic food basket. They appeared to be young people who had graduated from their studies, and with the information we have, we need to be connected with that,” he pointed out.
Ribeiro spoke to the newspaper O Globo and reported on the feeling of injustice he felt when he was approached. “At the time, we are very shocked because we don’t understand why it was happening. The first feeling that comes is fright and fear,” he said about the first moments when the couple accused him of stealing his own bicycle.
“So, when I ended up realizing that it wasn’t just a question, because maybe if I were a white guy I wouldn’t have been approached in such a way. If I didn’t do my best to prove my innocence there, the guy would already be sure that I was guilty,” explains Matheus to the newspaper.
The police chief Natacha Alves de Oliveira explains that the crime of libel is being investigated for the couple’s false accusation. She emphasizes, however, that there are not enough elements to frame the crime as racism. “He claims he was approached because of being black. And we know that there is structural racism in Brazil, that is undeniable. But it is not always enough to qualify for the penal type,” she stated.
A white man is arrested on suspicion of theft of the bicycle that led to a report of racism in Leblon
According to the G1 news site, police from the 14th DP (Leblon) arrested Igor Martins Pinheiro, 22, a suspect in the theft of an electric bicycle.
The couple who made the accusation of the theft have been identified as Mariana Spinelli and Tomás Oliveira.
Igor, a white boy, with 28 incidents on his police record and a resident of Botafogo, in the South Zone of the city, was arrested after being recognized by a security guard at Shopping Leblon, who testified at the police station.
Also known as “Lorão”, the suspect has been arrested for other thefts, such as in 2018. With him, the shorts he wore at the time of the crime were seized. He’s been arrested seven other times.
In 2018, for example, he was arrested in the act in the Ipanema region for stealing bicycles. At the time, a victim saw Igor during the action and reported that he used pliers to break the locks. Three years ago, he was investigated for at least ten bicycle thefts in the South Zone of the city of Rio in a period of two months.
Igor Martins Pinheiro was arrested by agents of the 14th precinct of Leblon. He was surprised in the apartment where he lives, in Botafogo, also in the South Zone. Police identified the shorts that “Lorão” was wearing at the time of the theft, as well as the pliers used to break the locks on the bicycles.
According to the newspaper O Globo, security cameras that captured the moment of the robbery practiced by Igor helped agents to identify the thief.
- Areas such as Leblon located in Rio’s south zone are considered upper crust regions of the city where black people are not expected to reside.