Note from BBT: By now, for black Brazilians, this story is old news of a familiar situation. A young black male being humiliated by police forces. When I saw the video and story behind this report, all I could do was shake my head again and think ‘Brazil, Brazil…’
How many times do Brazilians or even non-Brazilians have to see such images to conclude that one’s experience as a Brazilian can be totally different depending on their skin tone, hair texture and phenotype? Watching the video of the incident brought so many images to my mind that reflected the way Brazil treats its black citizens.
Whether it was seeing five black men all tied together with ropes around their neck, the dragging death of Cláudia da Silva Ferreira, the scene of a young black boy stripped naked and whipped, a black male seen stripped naked, tied to a steel bar, face down in Rio’s scorching heat or numerous other scenes, the treatment remains the same.
As usual, there will probably be people who will say that the young man atthe center of today’s story deserved to be treated this way, the question is and always will be, if he were white, would he have been treated this way? Check the story below…
Young black man is handcuffed and dragged in street tied to police motorcycle; ‘running like a slave’, says the video
A young black man was handcuffed to the motorcycle of a Military Police officer and dragged behind the vehicle on November 15 along Avenida Professor Luiz Ignácio de Anhaia Mello, in the Vila Prudente region, in the East Zone of São Paulo. Images circulating on social networks show the young man running in an attempt to keep up with the vehicle.
People at the scene were outraged by the police officer’s attitude, a man appears in the video saying that the act was referring to the times of slavery. “Look there, he’s handcuffed and he’s running like a slave.” The event caused revolt among internet users.
Operation ‘Steel Horse’
According to the São Paulo Police, the young man was riding a motorcycle, didn’t have a license, and when he broke a police roadblock, he hit a vehicle belonging to the Mobile Emergency Care Service (Samu). Next, 12 marijuana tablets were found inside his backpack. According to the young man’s testimony to the MP, he was delivering the drug from the Vila Prudente neighborhood to Jardim Rodolfo Pirani.
In a statement, the Police says that after being aware of the fact, it ordered the opening of a military inquiry (IPM) for investigation, and that it is against violent approaches. “Finally, the Military Police repudiates the way in which the detainee was transported, which affronts all the institution’s protocols and reaffirms its commitment to protecting people, fighting crime and enforcing the laws, relentless against occasional misconduct”.
In addition to being dragged handcuffed to the motorcycle, the young man was tortured in the vehicle and at the police station
Later, the young man was identified as Jhonny Ítalo da Silva
Lawyer claims that the arrest was illegal and that the young man was tortured in the car and at the police station
According to the defense, marks of aggression were found on Jhonny’s back
Lawyer Fábio Costa claims da Silva, 18, who was filmed being dragged motorcycle of military police officer Jocelio Almeida de Souza, 34, was also tortured in the vehicle and at the police station. “He had marks on his back and was beaten in the car and also at the police station. There are illegalities in the imprisonment,” he says in an interview with Alma Preta Jornalismo.
Dr. Costa’s team made a request for habeas corpus so that the boy could be released. Jhonny lives in Vila Prudente, on the east side of São Paulo, and was detained at the CDP (Provisional Detention Center) in Belém, also on the east side, however, he was transferred to the CDP in the city of Lavinia, 700 km (435 miles) away from his family. Jhonny has nine siblings and his mother is a cleaning woman at a financial institution.
According to the lawyer, the police brutality Jhonny suffered is common against young black bodies in Brazil. “Not only in relation to the military police, but it is also a form of violence that unfolds in the Public Ministry and in the Judiciary. This is the racism that permeates different structures of society. A young white man, committing a crime, would not have had the same treatment”, points out Costa.
In the decision, which denied the preliminary injunction (provisional) for Jhonny’s release, the judge considered the record, according to the police report, that “informally the boy had admitted to the crime of drug trafficking”.
“An alleged confession that was made under torture. There is physical torture and psychological torture. In the video that circulated on social media, we notice the physical torture, but at other times, there were more aggressions and psychological torture. Under these conditions, it is evident that it was a forced confession”, points out the lawyer.
Costa also explained that Jhonny was arrested after he crashed his motorcycle into a Samu ambulance and fled on foot for about two blocks, in the opposite direction where the police blitz was.
The alleged trafficking charge is based on the report of police officers who said that the boy dropped an ‘I-food’ bag, where approximately five kilos of marijuana were found, packaged in eleven tablets.
“Jhonny has a tumor on his left leg and can’t run. Given that situation, he wouldn’t have been able to continue the escape, and the use of handcuffs was totally unnecessary. The fact of handcuffing him on the motorcycle and dragging him for two blocks is an act of exposure, of brutal punishment, outside the legal system, which begins at the time of arrest”, comments the lawyer, who will file a lawsuit for the crime of torture against the policeman who handcuffed Jhonny to the motorcycle.
On Monday (6), the court accepted the public civil action filed by the Santo Dias Human Rights Center and by Educafro against the State of São Paulo, for widespread moral damage, referring to the flagrant torture scenes promoted by military police officer Jocelio Almeida. The lawsuit requests compensation of BRL 10 million “for collective and social moral damage to the black population due to acts of police violence committed by the MP of the State of São Paulo specifically against an 18-year-old black citizen.” The amount of the indemnity, if the State is condemned, will be used to promote actions and projects to combat racism.
Alma Preta Jornalismo contacted the Secretariat of Public Security and the Public Ministry of São Paulo to comment on the developments in the case of accusation of torture against the 18-year-old, but there was no response.
Police cites trafficking as Jhonny’s ‘only form of livelihood’
Scene was spotted on Anhaia Mello Avenue, on the east side of São Paulo
Involvement with drug trafficking was cited by the Civil Police as Jhonny’s “only form of subsistence”.
The argument supported a request to convert the arrest to preventive when he was arrested on the afternoon of May 28 of this year, just a month after reaching adulthood. On the occasion, he was caught at a drug sales spot, also on the east side of São Paulo.
To reach the conclusion, the Civil Police based itself only on the testimony of Jhonny, who claimed to have been involved in incidents while still in his teens — he was even apprehended after being accused of participating in a robbery of a business before he was 18 years old.
The crime is of great harm and requires segregation (…). Jhonny since childhood is affection [sic] to this [criminal] practice, apparently the only way he knows for his subsistence”
Civil Police police report after arrest in May
The offenses committed when he was still an adolescent were again cited in the request for conversion of the arrest to preventive sent by the Public Prosecutor’s Office just one day after this first arrest.
“[Jhonny has] a large incursion in infractional acts in the juvenile court, which demonstrates his dangerousness and his crime-oriented personality,” the DA said in one of the excerpts. “The conversion of preventive detention is necessary to guarantee public order,” he concluded.
In the action, agents from the 41st Police District had caught two suspects in the act at a dope spot after an anonymous tip. With Jhonny, the cops found BRL 70 in cash and notes attributed to the trafficking accounts.
His partner, a 37-year-old man who claimed to be homeless, had 52 bags of cocaine, 14 crackrocks and 18 pieces of marijuana. Both admitted involvement with the narcotics trade — in testimony, they stated that they received BRL 90 a day to work at the dope spot.
The Court responded to the DA’s request to convert the imprisonment to provisional. However, the Public Defender’s Office appealed. On May 31, three days after the arrest, Jhonny and the other man arrested at the scene began to respond to the process on provisional release.
Judge claims ‘breach of trust’
The previous lawsuit for trafficking was mentioned last on Wednesday December 1st. It served to support the conversion of the arrest in flagrante delicto into preventive custody in the custody hearing held in the Criminal Court of Barra Funda after the occurrence in which he was handcuffed to the motorcycle of a military police officer.
For judge Julia Martinez Alonso de Almeida Alvim, Jhonny “broke the trust” of the Justice for having been arrested again on charges of involvement with drug trafficking.
The magistrate didn’t see illegality in the imprisonment, caught on video last Tuesday (30). According to lawyer Fábio Costa, who represents the young man, the military police officer who arrested him said he would “run a marathon” before handcuffing him to the trunk of the police officer’s motorcycle. After the decision, Jhonny was taken to the CDP (Provisional Detention Center) of Chácara Belém, on the east side.
In the police report, the military police officers involved in the incident didn’t mention that the boy was handcuffed to one of their motorcycles and dragged before being taken to the 56th Police District, where the arrest was recorded in flagrante delicto for drug trafficking.
Crime stigma: what experts say
Ombudsperson for the São Paulo police, lawyer Elizeu Soares Lopes sees racism in the actions. “The image on the motorcycle recalls the period of slavery, when blacks were subjected to this type of humiliation and embarrassment. Society also needs to observe the social conditions of this young person. Did the State not neglect rights?”, he asks.
Vice-president of the Human Rights Commission of the OAB (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil), lawyer Arnobio Rocha questions what he understands to be a “determinism” of the Civil Police.
“Occasional offenses committed when he was a juvenile offender cannot be treated as a criminal record. There is a previous conviction and a determinism based on characteristics that fit the criminal profile”, he analyzes.
By treating involvement with trafficking as the only form of livelihood, the Civil Police discards elements such as education, social inclusion and the search for employment by an 18-year-old youth. ‘Oh, this won’t be anything in life, it’s one less’. This explains the high mortality in police actions of black and peripheral youth”
Arnóbio Rocha, OAB Human Rights Commission
President of Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais (Torture Never Again Group), lawyer Ariel de Castro Alves Ariel understands that the episode illustrates the criminalization of black and poor youth in the country. “When the accused is black and lives in a scenario of social exclusion, he is already labeled a criminal. There is only a presumption of innocence in Brazil for people from the wealthier classes. For the poor, this is a fiction”, he criticizes.
He also understands that the case would have been handled differently if the scene of the young black man handcuffed to a MP motorcycle had not been recorded. “It would be just another common situation for a young man who is a victim of police violence who goes to prison without anyone knowing he exists.”
MP who drove the motorcycle was removed from the streets
Corporal Jocelio Almeida de Sousa, 34 years old, identified as the policeman who appears in the images driving the vehicle, may respond for the crimes of torture, racism and abuse of authority. The soldier Rogério Silva de Araújo, 39, who also participated in the occurrence, may respond for malfeasance.
The MP said that it opened an investigation to investigate the case and removed the corporal from the streets. An attempt was made to contact Jocelio, but he didn’t want to comment and then hung up. Rogério was not found to tell his version of the story.
In the recording, you can see the man running behind the bike. People behind the camera laugh and one of them sneers: “Look, he’s handcuffed and he’s running like a slave. Are you going to steal more now?” he asks.
The investigation is also being monitored by the Human Rights Commission of the OAB (Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil) and by the Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais.
A young black man dragged by an authority: a Brazilian tradition
Practice refers to the slavery period, says researcher
The episode of police abuse occurred on the last day of November and was filmed from inside a vehicle passing by the scene. In a mocking tone, the author of the images laughs at the scene and compares the young man to an enslaved person.
133 years have passed since the abolition of slavery took place in Brazil, but the scene caught of film reveals that racism and brutality of the State security forces against black people are still present today. “What happened with this young man handcuffed on the police motorcycle helps us to understand the relationship between slave quarters-favela-prison that places us in a penal continuum that marks the transition between enslavement and democracy”, comments the lawyer and doctor in Social Sciences from the Pontifical University of São Paulo (PUC-SP) Dina Alves.
The video of the young man, looking exhausted while being pulled by the policeman, went viral on social media, generating angry comments, but also mocking the victim of the policeman’s aggression. For Dennis Pacheco, a researcher at the Brazilian Public Security Forum, the images show how prejudice is still seen as a form of entertainment. “It’s a form of naturalization of racism and torture as recreational public spectacles”.
Military police officers Jocélio Almeida de Souza and Rogério Silva de Araújo told, in testimony at the 56th DP (Vila Alpina) that they were carrying out a blitz on the avenue when they realized that Jhonny had turned around on his motorcycle when he saw the blockade and fled the wrong way. During the chase, according to the police, the boy would have thrown a delivery bag along the way.
Rogério would have stopped to check the bag, which, according to his testimony, had 11 packages of marijuana, while Jocélio continued the pursuit of Jhonny. At a given time, as stated in the police report, the boy’s motorcycle collided with a vehicle from the Mobile Emergency Care Service (Samu), which was providing assistance on the road, and the young man continued to flee on foot until he was caught by the military police.
At no time during the deposition to the civil police did the duo mention that they had dragged Jhonny handcuffed to one of the motorcycles of Rocam (Ostensive Patrol with Motorcycle Support). The conduct of police officers will be investigated by the Internal Affairs of the Military Police and the Public Ministry of São Paulo. The police ombudsman, Elizeu Soares, agrees that the scene seen in the video refers to the period of Colonial Brazil. “The images are appalling, reminescent of slavery, an attitude that violates the dignity of the human person,” he said.
The Military Police, immediately after becoming aware of the images, ordered the opening of a military police inquiry to investigate the conduct of the said policeman and his removal from operational service.” The policeman’s lawyer, João Carlos Campanini, informed that he entered the case on Wednesday, December 12 and has not yet had access to the case file.
An ever-present past
The first security forces that are known in Brazil were used basically to persecute black people who rebelled against their masters and this logic persists to this day, as recalled by history professor and movimento negro (black movement) activist André Leitão.
“Throughout history there will always be movements to control the popular masses. This happened right after the abolition with the vagrancy law, which is nothing more than a persecution of the black population. In the Vargas era, this grew, passes through the military regime’s repression of the organized black movement and descends into the barbarism we see today.”
38 years ago, photojournalist Luiz Morier won the Esso award, one of the most important in Brazilian journalism, with a photo showing five black men all connected by ropes around their necks being taken to a Military Police vehicle after an operation on a hill in Rio de Janeiro. Afterwards it was proved that all those involved were workers and had not committed any crime. The image is not very different from those painted by Jean-Baptiste Debret, a French artist who lived in Brazil, initially invited by the Portuguese Crown, between 1816 and 1831, known for some of the crudest portraits of the Brazilian slavery process, such as Loja de Tobacco, that illustrates this report.
Dina Alves says that the video where Jhonny Ítalo da Silva appears to be dragged reinforces the racist representation that black people are a danger to society. “This image appears, in this context, not as a deviation from police conduct, but as the reiteration of an ideology of systematic dehumanization of black bodies. After all, social images about crime and criminals associate racial and poverty attributes with the greater commission of violent crimes against black people”.
For Dennis Pacheco, the way the video’s author reacts to violence against the young black man describes well how society faces racism in the country. “The practice adopted by the policeman refers very clearly to the slavery period. In it, torture was a public practice of discipline used to guarantee the obedience of slaves to their masters, with severe and exemplary punishments reserved for slaves who dared to flee. In the video that circulated on the networks, it’s possible to hear that whoever recorded it understands the symbolism of slavery, but they do not oppose it, they laugh at the torture”.
‘I didn’t deserve to be humiliated’, says young man handcuffed to MP’s motorcycle
”Humiliated”. This is how 18-year-old Jhonny Ítalo da Silva described his feelings when he appeared in a video of being dragged while handcuffed to a police officer’s motorcycle. In a letter to Fantástico, a TV Globo program, he admitted that he had made the mistake and that he was afraid of dying. However, according to him, the situation has gone beyond the limit.
“I felt humiliated, I was afraid of dying. I made a mistake, but I didn’t deserve to be humiliated,” he said in the letter.