Two black men turn themselves in after spraying a swastika on Brazil’s most powerful symbol of black resistance; didn’t know what swastika meant


Note from BW of Brazil: Ya know, when stories like this one break my reaction is always the same. First, a sort of “wow, really???” And then I usually like to wait for more information before sharing it here. First to wait for any new developments on the stories and to see what the reaction to first report is. So when I got the first details of this story, again, a few thoughts. 1) “Here we go again.” 2) Racist neo-Nazi displays are more common than people like to imagine in Brazil (last week, for example), 3) the Month of Black Consciousness starts in a little more than a week and 4) this is maybe the third or fourth time that this particular statue has been attacked in Rio. Again, not too shocking. 

Then as I began to read the story I took a look at the first photos of the man who was thought to have sprayed graffiti on the monument to Zumbi, Brazil’s most important black resistance symbol, and from the photo that blurred out the man’s face I saw enough skin that I thought the man was black. The next day after the men responsible turned themselves in I saw that both of them were indeed black. After an initial “what”, I quickly snapped back into reality. After all, in a Brazil where so many persons of visible African ancestry don’t see themselves a black, where black people insult other black people (here and here, for example) and a great number of police responsible for hostility against and murder of young black men are indeed black, this shouldn’t actually come as a surprise. Even so, the incident is very revealing about the psychological state of Afro-Brazilian masses. 

The fact is that black Brazilians receive less education than white Brazilians and the education that they do receive and the media are overwhelmingly Eurocentric. Yes, there is a law that mandates the teaching of African and Afro-Brazilian History and Culture but due to teacher ignorance, a lack of desire to approach the topic, as well as a lack of materials lead to a more than 10 year law that has yet to be fully implemented. And again, beneath the facade of the non-existence of racial problems because “we’re all mixed”, white Brazilians will freely point out problems and contradictions within the Afro-Brazilian community.

If one pays attention to various online comments section of various websites, said person is sure to come across opinions of many white Brazilians who see a contradiction in black Brazilians pounding their chests and proclaiming “orgulho negro” (black pride) when so many choose not to marry people of their own race. White Brazilians also are quick to point out that black Military Police are often responsible for the murders of black youth. As such, while it’s easy to point to the evils of supposedly more racially hostile countries in a manner that is favorable to Brazil, on the other hand, within these comments people are perhaps inadvertently pointing out how Brazil’s particular strain of racism has in many ways left a population of would be blacks unprepared to deal with issues of racism and self-esteem. Add to this a failed education system that not only under serves its students but also renders this population invisible and we can understand how incidents like the one featured below can happen. 

Duo that sprayed graffiti on Zumbi statue apologizes: “It’s an adrenaline rush”

Two men were identified after photos were posted and displayed on G1. “I didn’t study much, I didn’t know what a swastika was,” said one of the graffiti artists.

By Lívia Torres, G1 Rio

Zumbi dos Palmares monument in Rio de Janeiro was sprayed with a swastika on Sunday
Zumbi dos Palmares monument in Rio de Janeiro was sprayed with a swastika on Sunday

The two men who spray painted the monument to Zumbi dos Palmares on Sunday (19) apologized to the black community after testifying at a police station in Bonsucesso, a suburb of Rio, on Tuesday (21) afternoon. They said they didn’t know what the swastika represents and what Nazism is – they only knew that “[the Nazis] killed many people” – and that they knew Zumbi dos Palmares “for being good people.”

Cláudio and Alessandro confessed to the graffiti painting on Zumbi statue (Photo: Livia Torres)
Cláudio and Alessandro confessed to the graffiti painting on Zumbi statue (Photo: Livia Torres)

“We are sorry, it was a spur of the moment. The swastika in the middle of the graffiti means rebellion. I didn’t study much, I didn’t know what the swastika was. It’s an adrenaline rush, and feeling that adrenaline is inexplicable. But we want to apologize to the black community,” said the auto electrician Alessandro Nascimento, known as “Demo”, 30, who acted alongside the blacksmith Cláudio Henrique da Silva, 37, known as “Casão”.

Cláudio also said he didn’t know the meaning of the swastika. According to him, the attitude was not premeditated and was not related to the National Day of Black Consciousness, celebrated on November 20 and whose symbol Zumbi, the last great quilombo (maroon society) leader and icon of black resistance to slavery in the colonial period of the 17th century. “In reality, there are no groups, this was an individual move. We are black, but it had nothing to do with race. We had no intention of targeting any ethnicity,” he said.

Suspect posted photo of himself after spray painting graffiti on Zumbi of Palmares statue
Suspect posted photo of himself after spray painting graffiti on Zumbi of Palmares statue

According to police, the two will return to the police station on Tuesday (28) and will clean the graffiti that others have already done. The statue of Zumbi has already been cleaned by the city. “If we could clean it, I would go there and clean it. I want to apologize to my family and my daughter, who is black,” Alessandro said.

According to police chief Fernando Reis, they decided to surrender because they were afraid of great repercussions after the photos were published in the press. As they were caught in the act, they will not be arrested, but they can get a penalty of up 10 years and respond to the act of painting graffiti on an historical monument, the use of a swastika cross and criminal association, as part of a group that is called “5 Estrelas” , which means “five stars”.

One of the suspects posted a photo of himself spray painting the monument in a social netowrk
One of the suspects posted a photo of himself spray painting the monument in a social netowrk

According to the police chief Rodrigo Brand, of the DPMA, the suspects already had a previous record with police for the crime of graffiti.

Cláudio  and Alessandro posed for pictures in front of the spray-painted statue, but only the second man published the photos on a social network, as well as a woman who identifies herself as his girlfriend, who identified the duo in the photos. “Maridão e titio machucaram hoje o Zumbi dos Palmares, no Centro da cidade,” (Hubby and uncle hurt Zumbi dos Palmares today, downtown) said the posting.

A user commented on the publication of the swastika. One suspect responds that the symbol is only “to get attention”. “The meaning we all know. Paraphrasing a great friend, it’s better to be a preto de atitude (black with attitude) than a negro limitado (limited black),” posted the suspect of vandalizing the monument to Zumbi dos Palmares.

The profile of the man who posted the images didn’t display pictures of other graffiti allegedly done ​​by him. In all the images, the grafitti has the same symbol painted on the statue of Zumbi dos Palmares. According to police, the symbol is called “xarpi” by groups of graffiti artists rivaling each other.

“The symbol is the mark and the (number) five with a star is the group to which they belong. We have already identified some groups,” said the police chief.

Recurring vandalism

Statue of Zumbi was cleaned after being sprayed with graffiti (Photo: Mariucha Machado)
Statue of Zumbi was cleaned after being sprayed with graffiti (Photo: Mariucha Machado)

A statue in honor of Zumbi dos Palmares had been a victim of graffiti on several other occasions. In 2013, city hall cameras caught at least two men climbing the monument to commit the crime. One of the cases happened days before the holiday of Black Consciousness, celebrated on November 20. Teams of Municipal Secretariat of Conservation cleaned the statue in these cases. (Here is another case of the statue sprayed with grafitti in 2010)

The statue by Carlos Drummond de Andrade on the shore of Copacabana beach in south zone Rio is also often the victim of graffiti artists. The most recent case happened on Christmas Day 2013. The suspect was identified after being caught by a city hall camera. He also responded for painting statues of journalist Zózimo Barroso do Amaral, on Leblon Beach, and the monument to Estácio de Sá, in Flamengo, also in the south zone.

When two black-skinned men paint a white swastika on the Zumbi dos Palmares statue

By Marcos Romão

Two more racists show up “apologize” after they seeing the shit they did. It seems that it has become fashionable to be racist, commit racist and fascist acts, and then say, “Sorry, it was a bad thing.” I don’t regret anything, nor diminish due to the fact the fact that they are two men with black skin. They have to pay in court. I saw very well what they painted. As even without seeing who kills blacks on behalf of society in our state of Rio, many black-skinned men.

I don’t consider that we are evil, we are conscious of this sad reality. Rather we are just seeing gaping, the hole of racism against blacks is more beneath the than the branco x preto (white vs. black) duality appears.

We are seeing that racism against “being black” is so ingrained in our society that young black men kill blacks in the name of the the order of the Caveirão (military tank), or commit suicide with white spray painting swastikas on their own faces on behalf of who knows what order. And they know what they are doing.

To combat racism it’s necessary to look at all of society, regardless of the color of the racist against black people. Skin color is no passport of a little angel. A racist has to be exemplarily punished. Period. # marcosromaoindignação

Ps: I have no desire to find those black people who sprayed the Nazi swastika on the Zumbi dos Palmares statue, as I also don’t have any desire or mental patience because I would throw up, to chat with the two young black skinned Military Police soldiers that filmed themselves with the the police car camera that they drove, transporting two young black men to their execution, one of whom escaped to tell.

However I would like to know what they think, these black-skinned young men, neither of whom is thirty years old and take pleasure in killing other young people or destroying their symbols of dignity and self-esteem.

I wonder if they reflect or imagine something in their heads, about the reason for their actions. I wonder what they think in order to maybe find a method of action to stop these horrific racist acts before they happen; it’s a lot of physical and mental death of young black men that happens. I cannot sit unmoved in the face of this genocidal horror of black youth in Brazil.

Combating racism is a national issue.

Source: Mamapress, G1

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. I noticed that when I was Brazil in 1995 for the Zumbi 300 celebration,this symbol was defaced even at that time.

  2. I’m sorry but I don’t think you know what you’re talking about!
    These men saw themselves as Brasileiros, not black, because there is a homogenous quality among the population in Brasil that no black American is able to understand.
    I know this because I lived there, I married there, I raised two foster sons there and I thought and spoke in Portugues……Avoided northamericans.
    In Brasil, it’s not about your skin color EVER but about how you act, what is your attitude.
    Tudo bem?

    • Excuse me Pamela, but did you read the article? One of made a statement that CLEARLY says “We are black”!

      The other guy said that “I want to apologize to my family and my daughter, who is black”.

      So I ask, did you read the article?

      Of course there are many cases of persons of visible African ancestry would don’t see themselves as black, but this case is NOT one of them!

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