In a Carrefour supermarket, 40-year João Alberto dies after security agent kneels on his back for four minutes; protests erupt across Brazil

Note from BBT: When I first heard the slogan Black Lives Matter some years ago, one of my first thoughts was, if black lives really did matter, it wouldn’t be necessary to say so. It would already be stating the obvious. But as we’ve seen time and time again, over the past five centuries, the lives of black folks don’t really seem to carry the same value as bodies wrapped in other skin tones.

By now, much of the world has already heard about the latest shocking example of this coming out of Brazil. Well to be truthful, I can no longer use the term shocking when it comes to the way Brazil treats its black citizens. The news of 40-year old João Alberto Silveira Freitas’s death hit me in a similar matter that other attention-grabbing events do. With first consciousness of the news and watching the video of the event, I froze, motionless, processing what I was seeing/hearing. The second pause was a kind of exhale as another blow to the human spirit had set in. Then, after a few minutes, I remembered once again, this is a black man and this is Brazil. It’s an all-too familiar reality.

The most ironic things about this latest taking of a black life was the fact the act took place on the day before the November 20th Day of Black Consciousness celebrated throughout Brazil. The same day of which many people will question why the holiday even exists. The day of which people will say/ask, ‘That’s racist, why isn’t there a day of white consciousness?’. Well, in reality, there are numerous responses to this question.

First, as many black Brazilians have said over the years, with the invisibility of black Brazilians in the history books, on the modeling runways, in CEO offices, law firms, television programs and hundreds of other areas, white consciousness is every day of the year. Whiteness/white consciousness is, in fact, the standard for which most people, white and non-white, are taught to be proud of or aspire to be. Whiteness is the racial standard of which black Brazilians are taught to instill in their children so that they desire to couple with white partners in order to produce white children

Whiteness is the reason for which so many millions of non-white Brazilians have so long denied their racial identity. There is no need for a white consciousness day because, it is highly likely, that had João Alberto Silveira Freitas had white skin, it is possible that he wouldn’t have been treated in such a brutal manner.

“That’s not true!” many will proclaim. Well, the fact is, non-whites are nearly 80% of those killed by a Brazilian police force that kills more than five times more people than their American counterparts. So, I don’t write this to exaggerate the issue. I’m simply stating the facts.

The police chief investigating the death João Alberto has stated that there was no evidence that the incident was racially motivated, as there is no indication of this. But I always will ask these questions. How do we judge if race was a motivating factor or not? People often conclude that for racism to have existed, an aggressor has to refer to a person of African descent as “monkey“, “crioulo”, “neguinho”, “negrinha”, “negão” or numerous other terms commonly used in Brazilian society in relation to black people. But the reality is that it is not that simple. What do we really know about what the security agent was thinking when he kneeled on João Alberto’s back for four minutes until he eventually stopped breathing?

We have seen countless examples of how, in Brazil, people with white skin, particularly those with light colored hair and eyes, are simply treated better than those dark skin, kinky/curly hair and dark eyes. The qeustion is, if João would have looked like the “hot beggar” that became the talk of the internet several years ago, would he have been treated so aggresively? What reason would I have to believe that he would have been when we see that, even being criminals, white people, in general, are not thought to be the criminal element in Brazil? We have too many examples of privileges of white skin and people KNOW this. It’s not even open for debate.

I will say that, as I’ve been covering this sort of thing for years, it’s good to know that the international media is covering this story because, unfortunately, although the manner African-Americans are treated in the US is well-known, in Brazil, where Afro-Brazilians are victimzed at a much higher rate, most people outside of the country still don’t know this.

So let’s just look into the circumstances that led to the violent murder of yet another black Brazilian man. The video is age restricted but you can see it here.

Video shows João Alberto being slammed and punched in the face repeatedly by security agents

Black customer beaten to death by Carrefour security in Rio Grande do Sul; protests explode across Brazil

Information courtesy of Estado de Minas

Murder took place in a Porto Alegre unit with the participation of a military police officer; the victim, João Alberto Silveira Freitas, was 40 years old

During Black Consciousness Week, a black man was brutally beaten and killed by security guards at the Carrefour Supermarket in Porto Alegre (RS) (photo: Reproduction Twitter) During Black Consciousness Week, a black man was brutally beaten and killed by security guards at the Carrefour Supermarket in Porto Alegre (RS) (photo: Reproduction Twitter)

The Civil Police of Rio Grande do Sul are investigating the brutal beating followed by the death of João Alberto Silveira Freitas, 40, which occurred on the night of Thursday (19) at the door of a unit in the Carrefour supermarket. The store is in the Passo d’Areia neighborhood, in the North Zone of Porto Alegre.

João Alberto was 40 years old

According to the Civil Police of RS, the fight was motivated by a disagreement between João and security of the establishment. Witnesses told the corporation that he made aggressive gestures while passing by the cashier. The man was then ushered out of the store, while his wife continued shopping. On the way, the victim reportedly punched the security guard and was later beaten to death.

Still according to the police, the Samu emergency ambulance was called in. Doctors tried to revive João Alberto, without success. The suspects were caught in the act. The employee who filmed the murder will testify on Friday (20).

Supermarket ‘regrets’

The Carrefour chain commented on the case by means of a note. The supermarket said it “will break the contract with the company that is responsible for the security guards who committed the assault” and will dismiss the employee who was in charge of the store at the time of the incident.

The network also said it “deeply regrets the case and will provide” necessary support “to the victim’s family.

Another angle of the video shows a security agent kneeling on João Alberto’s back

Report points out that João Alberto, killed in Carrefour, was asphyxiated

Police chief did not see ‘racial slant’ in murder of man by supermarket security guards

Like the American George Floyd, João Alberto Silveira Freitas, 40, may have been killed by asphyxiation, as indicated by the first necropsy performed by the expertise in Porto Alegre. The black man was beaten by security guards at the Carrefour hypermarket on Thursday night, 19.

After collecting the first testimonies, the poli e chief responsible for the case, Roberta Bertoldo, from the 2nd Police Station for Homicide and Personal Protection, received, this Friday afternoon, the coroner report to elucidate the causes of João Alberto’s death. During the assaults, the victim was also immobilized by the guards, with a knee of one of the guarss on Alberto’s back.

“The greatest indication of the autopsy is that he was killed by asphyxiation, as he remained on the ground while the two security guards pressed and compressed João Alberto’s body, making it difficult for him to breathe. He could no longer make the movement to breathe,” she informed.

In addition to the two security agents involved in João’s death, the chief adds that others involved are being investigated for omission of help. “Two or more people could be implicated for not having prevented the attacks from continuing. It was a completely disproportionate and atypical action for people who exercise this activity,” said Roberta Bertoldo.

Video shows beating, blood on the ground and security agent kneeling on João Alberto

The delegate, however, said she had no evidence that it was a case of racism. “Up to this moment, we have not uncovered anything of a racial nature. We have no indication of this motivation,” she said.

The preliminary information that João Alberto suffered a heart attack while being attacked by the guards could not be verified by the expertise. Two third party Carrefour security guards, Giovane Gaspar da Silva, temporary military police officer, and Magno Braz Borges were taken to prison. Both will be indicted for triple-qualified murder – for futile reasons, asphyxiation and an appeal that made it impossible for the victim to defend himself.

In the case of George Floyd, which some people recalled upon learning of the violence in Porto Alegre, an independent autopsy commissioned by the victim’s family determined that the cause of his death was “asphyxiation by constant pressure”.

PF will suspend security guard portfolio

The Federal Police said it would suspend Magno Braz’s national security card. The PF explained that he acts as professional security, but “there is no record in the Federal Police of his professional relationship with the contracting company. The National Vigilante Card, a document issued by the Federal Police, will be suspended.” The PF also pointed out that the MP involved in the murder does not have a National Vigilante Card.

The institution confirmed that Grupo Vector (Vector Group) has a regular registration and was inspected at the end of August, with no irregularities in its operation having been identified. Due to the crime, the Federal Police will carry out an extraordinary inspection of the company.

Protestors took the streets in various cities across the country

Racism protests explode in Brazil after murder in Carrefour

Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Osasco and Porto Alegre registered demonstrations against the death of a black man at a Carrefour unit

Several protests took place across Brazil on Friday, November 20th, Black Consciousness Day, against João Alberto’s murder. The cities of Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Osasco and Porto Alegre saw protesters in the streets who called for justice and shouted slogans.

The hashtags #JustiçaporBeto (justice for Beto) and #VidasPretasImportam (Black Lives Matter) were among the most talked about on social networks. In addition to them, the words “Carrefour” and “Racism” were also among the most cited.

Protest in fron of Carrefour supermarket in Porto Alegre where João Alberto was killed

In Rio de Janeiro, protesters occupied the Carrefour branch in Barra da Tijuca, in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro. In protest, the protesters shouted: “Assassin, Carrefour!”

In Brasília, the act took place in the Zumbi dos Palmares square. There, protesters shout for justice and the name of João Alberto. In protests in the Barra da Tijuca district, the protesters entered the Carrefour supermarket and closed the establishment, after calling on the manager. During the act, people shouted phrases like “Black Lives Matter”, “Stop killing us” and “Assassins”.

In São Paulo, protesters broke into a Carrefour store located on Avenida Paulista. In protest, they demonstrated against racism and social injustices. There, a group threw stones at the store’s facade. According to reports and videos on social networks, the establishment was depredated and even part of the interior of the supermarket was set on fire. Nobody was hurt and the organizers ended the act. The police only arrived at the scene when the protest was over.

A section of the Carrefour store in São Paulo was set ablaze by protestors

In the city of Belo Horizonte, protesters occupied a Carrefour store. Accompanied by rapper Djonga, people shouted “Fogo nos Racistas” (fire to the racists).

Osasco, in the greater São Paulo, also had protests for the death of João Alberto. The protesters entered Carrefour during the early evening and continued to demonstrate.

In Porto Alegre, about 2,500 people gathered in front of Carrefour, where the crime took place. At first the protest was peaceful, many signs and posters were raised with phrases that expressed the revolt – “Stop killing us”, “Black lives matter”, “Justice by João Beto”, among others. Almost two hours later, a group of people tried to break into the closed supermarket, some young people even broke down the parking access gate and smashed glass windows.

Sign: “STOP KILLING US!”

The Military Brigade intervened with tear gas bombs to disperse individuals at the gate, but people managed to invade the site and set some materials on fire. The protest against João Alberto’s death ended and some remains of the act remained, such as the graffiti “Police genocide” on the Carrefour wall.

The black bench of the Municipal Council, elected in the 2020 elections, came together to demonstrate. “We will not forget about Beto, just as we have not forgotten about Marielle (Franco) and so many others who were unable to return home,” they wrote on the poster.

Protestors called for justice for João Alberto

In Belo Horizonte, protesters protested in front of two Carrefour supermarkets, one in the city’s downtown and the other inside a shopping center. The protest was organized by the Núcleo Rosa Egípciaca Negros, Negras e Indígenas, and was attended by rapper Djonga.

Similar protests were held in the nation’s capital of Brasília (DF), Curitiba and Ponta Grossa in Paraná state, and Santa Maria in the state of Santa Catarina.

International repercussion

João Alberto’s case was associated by many people with the murder of black American George Floyd. The man was killed on May 25 of this year, by a white policeman who, after immobilizing him, kneeled on his neck for nine minutes, choking him. On that occasion, anti-racist protests were carried out in several countries, in large proportions.

As for João’s death, some news sites from abroad – such as The Guardian, Reuters, BBC World and Euro News – published stories reporting the murder and the ensuing protests that were carried out.

Sign: “Enough, stop the racism! Quilombolas demand justice for João Alberto Silveira de Freitas. Reparation for the family! National boycott against Carrefour – Quilombo dos Machado

Note from BBT: As more information becomes available, I will keep my eye on this story. Recently, a surveillance video was released that showed João Alberto being escorted by security agents when he suddenly punched one of the security officers. The obvious question here would be ‘why?’, but as there is no sound in the video, we have no idea if one of the security agents would have said something that provoked this action. It would be difficult for me to believe any statement made by the security agents, but, as I always ask, was it necessary for João Alberto to die when he was already on the ground and subdued?

The other thing that I noted in terms of the protests is that, with the continous violent deaths of black Brazilians, protests are getting larger and more aggressive. There has long been a question of why it seems that Afro-Brazilian reaction to the murder of their people haven’t provoked more violent reactions as what we have seen historically of the African-American population in the United States. The way I see this, if these assassinations continue in this manner, I can imagine these protests will continue to get bigger and more violent. Not saying this is good thing, but with a rising consciousness spreading among black Brazilians, the situation is a powder keg waiting to explode. 

Source: EM 1, 2, 3

About Marques Travae 3509 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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