Note from BW of Brazil: When I was going up an elevator this morning, I had no idea why people in my WhatsApp groups were suddenly posting photos of Rio Councilwoman Marielle Franco. Then I noticed that one of my contacts replaced his profile photo of himself posing with actor Danny Glover on his recent return visit to Brazil. I suddenly had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Then I finally read one of the headlines and I froze as the words sunk in. Marielle had been brutally murdered in Rio on the previous evening.
First, the stories came in in Portuguese and then the international news in English starting coming. Washington Post, New York Times, Essence magazine and Okay Africa were a few of the English-language sources I received. On the Brazilian side there were Globo, EL PAÍS, Carta Capital, Correio Braziliense and many others filling in all of the details of the demise of a rising political star who wasn’t afraid to say what she and people of Rio’s poor communities were feeling about the escalating violence in Rio, just weeks after the Federal government voted to send in the Brazilian army to police the streets of Rio. I had featured Marielle in three previous posts, one of them highlighting the fact that she was one of only five black women elected to political office out of 460 thousand candidates in the 2016 elections. I could never have imaged that the next time I would speak of her would be in such unthinkable circumstances.
I have to admit, it gets to be emotionally draining having to deal with reporting so much violence and death when speaking of Brazil’s black population. Marielle’s murder is devastating enough without covering the outrageous number of murders that take place in the country’s big cities, particularly Rio. Learning about Marielle’s murder takes me back to seeing the five young black men, also in Rio, who were shot at over 100 times in the car in which they were sitting in. Or the twelve black youth who were murdered by Military Police in Salvador, Bahia, in a case in which a judge absolved the police involved. Or the brutal shooting and dragging of the body of Cláudia da Silva Ferreira on the concrete pavement for about 820 feet. Just shocking beyond words. I know people don’t like thinking about conspiracy theories, most likely because they really can’t fathom the level of evil that controls our world on a daily basis.
But you will never convince me that Marielle just happened to speak out on police brutality and the repugnant treatment of the favela population and then, just days later, a car tailed her for several blocks, knew exactly where she was sitting, struck her four times in the head, didn’t steal anything and then disappeared into the night. Let’s get real. We know why people who witness violent acts by police often remain silent or conceal their identities. And I can’t say with any certainty who murdered Franco in such a heartless manner. But this was no random case of violence. Given the facts that we know there has been a plan to exterminate Brazil’s “undesirables”, and that many assassins are elements within the ranks of those who are supposed to be protecting us, what conclusion would you come to? Rest in Peace and Power Marielle Franco. We will all miss you!
Marielle Franco, councilor of the PSOL party, is murdered in downtown Rio after an event with black activists
Councilwoman and her driver were killed in Estácio, in the downtown region of the state capital. Against federal intervention in Rio, she had criticized Military Police action days before in Acari.
By Flávia Marreiro
“I am the fruit of the community pré-vestibular (college prep course),” Marielle Franco said, recalling years ago that she had become engaged in a workshop at the Maré complex, one of the largest favelas in the world, to have a chance in Rio’s most highly competed college entrance exams. She passed the microphone to another black woman in the circle and asked for support and shares from her followers on Facebook, who followed the live broadcast of the Roda de conversa Mulheres Negras Movendo Estruturas (Black Women’s Moving Structures Conversation circle). Shortly afterwards, her face and her words and her trajectory as a black activist would flood the networks in shock with horror: the 38-year-old PSOL councilor, the fifth most voted in Rio in 2016, had been shot dead in the downtown region of Rio under military intervention.
The crime occurred on Wednesday, March 14, at Rua Joaquim Palhares, Estácio, and the driver who was with her, identified as Anderson Pedro Gomes, was also shot to death. According to the Rio press, the councilwoman was also accompanied by the adviser Fernanda Chaves, who survived. According to the newspaper Extra, the Civil Police found at least eight rounds at the location. Preliminary reports indicate that the criminals opened fire on the car. No object was taken. “There are signs of execution,” said state deputy Marcelo Freixo, with whom Marielle Franco was a co-religionist at the PSOL (political party) and adviser at Jornal da Globo. According to the same television news, crime of command or execution is also the main hypothesis with which the police are working on at the moment.
The PSOL also issued a note, which asks: “We demand immediate and rigorous investigation of this heinous crime. We will not remain silent!” Days before the assassination, Marielle Franco had criticized the supposedly violent action of the police in the community of Acari, Rio.
“We need to shout so that everyone knows what is happening in Acari at that moment. The 41st Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police is terrorizing and abusing the residents of Acari. This week two young men were killed and thrown into a sewage ditch. Today the police walked the streets threatening the residents. It has always happened and with the intervention it has gotten even worse,” she wrote in the quotation from the newspaper O Dia four days ago.
On February 28th she had become rapporteur for the commission to accompany the controversial federal intervention. An image with the phrase “it was not an assault” was spreading rapidly through the nets on Wednesday night. In other words, Franco’s murder wasn’t an assault or robbery attempt, it was a planned execution.
According to initial police reports, the perpetrators in a car pulled up next to the vehicle where the councilwoman was and fired. Marielle was hit with at least four shots in the head. The crime scene investigation found nine capsules of shots at the location. The criminals fled without taking anything. In addition to the councilwoman, the driver of the vehicle, Anderson Pedro Gomes, was also shot and died.
According to Fernando Veloso, the characteristics of the car of the assassins are also being investigated. “There is more information being worked on that will continue today. They will return to the place today, they will pursue the issue of cameras. The vehicle itself, there is a doubt about the characteristics of this vehicle,” he said.
At the time of the crime, the councilwoman was in the backseat of the car, on the passenger side. As the vehicle windows were tinted, the police are working on the hypothesis that the criminals have been following the for some time, knowing the exact position of the people inside. The driver was hit by at least 3 shots on the side of the back.
Police will search for footage from local cameras to determine the car’s route and where it went. The exact location of the crime is almost in front of a Detran station, which was closed at the time. Across the street there is a dealership that was also closed.
Marielle Franco graduated from PUC-Rio and holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), focusing on UPPs. She coordinated the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship of the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro (Alerj), along with Deputy Marcelo Freixo. The activist decided for human rights activism after joining the community pré-vestibular comunitário (pre-college entrance exam prep course) – just the moment she remembered this Wednesday with other black women – and the death of a friend in a shooting. She leaves at least one 19-year-old daughter.
Franco March 10 tweet: “What is happening now in Acari is absurd! And it has been happening forever! The 41st MP battalion is known as the Death Battalion. STOP abusing the population! STOP killing our youth!” “We are all Acari: Stop killing us! #LivesInTheFavelasMatter” – Marielle Franco (@mariellefranco) March 10, 2018
The murder of Marielle and her driver again calls into question the policies to curb crime in Rio. “I am devastated … We have been together in the long militancy, I was with her two days before traveling last week. There are no words to express the horror and I cannot imagine what is going on in the head of her daughter and her family. And the driver, his family, an innocent, honest worker?” Said political scientist Luiz Eduardo Soares, a specialist in public security. Soares recalled the case of Judge Patricia Acioly, murdered in 2011 by Military Police officers, saying that “it is possible thing happened” to Marielle.”… when the public will awaken and understand that public insecurity begins in the corrupt and brutal segments of the police, and that we can no longer live with this macabre legacy of dictatorship. Let’s continue talking about “individual deviations of conduct”? What is there to do now, besides crying?” wrote Soares.
Amnesty International issued a note requesting that the State, through the various competent bodies, conduct an immediate and rigorous investigation into the murder of the councilwoman. “Marielle Franco is recognized for her historic fight for human rights, especially in defense of the rights of black women and residents of favelas and peripheries, and in denouncing police violence. There can be no doubt about the context, motivation and authorship of the murder of Marielle Franco.”
“I lament this act of extreme cowardice against councilwoman Marielle Franco. I am in solidarity with family and friends, and I accompany the investigation of the facts for the punishment of the perpetrators of this crime.” – Michel Temer (@MichelTemer) March 15, 2018
President Michel Temer convened an emergency meeting to discuss the case and federal intervention in Rio de Janeiro.