“What country is this?”: Black woman lawyer is handcuffed and arrested in courtroom simply exercising her duty of defending her client
By Marques Travae
Can someone explain this one to me? Please explain to me what world we are living in in which a woman, a lawyer, can be handcuffed and arrested for exercising her duty of defending her client in a court of law? Let me add two more facts to the case that might explain the case in the event that someone looking at the incident believes in a world in which “we are all equal”. One, the woman lawyer is black. And two, this happened in Brazil. Now for many of us, those are the only details necessary to understand the crux of this story. But let’s get a few more details.
In a video that made its way around social networks a few days ago, the image shows a black woman, later identified as Valéria Santos, in a courtroom speaking in defense of her client. The scene was recorded at the 3rd Special Civil Court in Duque de Caxias, in the Baixada Fluminense region of Rio de Janeiro. See the full video here.
The images also show Santos demanding that a contestation of a lawsuit be read in the case that took place on Monday, September 10th. The judge presiding over the case, Ethel de Vasconcelos, denied the examination of the appeal after being challenged by Santos. The judge then called for the arrest of Santos. Valéria, insisting on fulfilling her legal duties in defending her client refuses to leave the courtroom. Appalled by the judge’s actions, Santos responded:
“”I am outraged that you, as representative of the state, trample over the law, I have the right to read the contestation and dispute the points of the defendant’s contestation, this is in the law, I am not saying anything absurd here.”
The judge’s actions are considered an abuse of authority over the Santos’s rights.
We also see Santos requesting the presence of a representative from the Ordem de Advogados do Brasil (OAB), the Brazilian Lawyer’s Guild, and questioned by the judge, who tells Santos to wait outside of the courtroom. As the dispute continues, the video then cuts to a scene in which Santos is shown seated, handcuffed, and speaking out against a clear violation and the manner in which she is being treated:
“I’m not going to leave, I’m in my right, I’m working, I’m not stealing, they’re worried about the hearing and they want to trample over the law … What is this, what country is this? And then you want to complain about politicians stealing and you are lawyers are not respecting the law,” she says.
In the strange scene, the lawyer, shown seated on the ground surrounded by a number of Military Police, Santos is heard saying she only wants to exercise “o direito de trabalhar”,’the right to work’ and “Eu quero trabalhar. Eu estou trabalhando,” meaning ‘I want to work’ and ‘I am working’.
After case blew up, an OAB Rio disputed the actions of the lay judge, who is an assistant and thus is not entitled to wear a toga and also sought punishment for the Military Police that handcuffed Santos, who did nothing outside of her exercise of duty as a lawyer.
As absurd as the whole spectacle was, it got even worse when Santos was taken to 59th Police Precinct but soon after released after the OAB stepped in.
“A lawyer from the Duque de Caxias subsection was handcuffed in the middle of a professional exercise! There is nothing to justify the treatment given to our colleague, which denotes only the increasing criminalization of our class, and we will go after all those who perpetrated this blatant abuse of authority,” said committee chairman Luciano Bandeira.
Brazil is so funny at times. On the one hand, people still have difficulty admitting a racist system that treats black citizens different from white. But then when it does admit the existence of racism, the belief is that, if you get an education, get a good a job and succeed in life, racism won’t affect you. Well, time after time, we’ve seen this to not be the case. So who’s gonna explain this one to me?