Note from BBT: As police violence against black people in the United States continues, so too does it continue in Brazil. Of course, this isn’t something that I like to discuss but I can’t ignore such incidents as it would be disingenuous in discussing the experiences of being black in Latin America’s largest, most populous country.
Similar to the manner that places of business always deny any sort of discriminatory policies or training of its security agents, you’ll never rarely hear governamental administrations admit that some citizens are treated differently than others based on phenotype. It’s also pretty common to hear these governments speak of retraining their agents of public security or that incidents of police brutality are simply isolated incidentes although such actions rarely change while reports of such aggressions never seem to cease.
More evidence of this is a number of cases being investigated in São Paulo, as you’ll see below.
“Why are you choking him?’: Military Police of São Paulo continue strangling young black men
By Paulo Eduardo Dias
Although the administration of Governor João Doria banned the blow known as “mata-leão” (meaning choke hold) in July last year, cases continue to be recorded on video; the latest report, from last week, shows police officers beating a teenager in Capão Redondo of São Paulo’s south zone
Vetoed since July of last year by the high command of the Military Police of São Paulo, the “mata-leão”, which can cause fainting and lead to death, is still being used by military police officers in poor neighborhoods of the state capital. Videos circulating on social networks indicate at least two occurrences in which the procedure was adopted in late March 2021. The Administration of Governor João Doria (PSDB) decided on the ban after several cases came to light, all of them filmed by phones or monitoring cameras. The death of George Floyd, in the United States, also contributed to the MP’s command to review the types of actions to be vetoed.
The most recent incident to which this report had access occurred on the 27th of last month. The images show a police stop on the outskirts of São Paulo that ended in aggressions, after an MP applied a strangle hold on an adolescent. The case, according to the Secretariat of Public Safety, occurred in Capão Redondo, in the southern zone of São Paulo, and involved teenagers who were supposedly carrying drugs.
While the person is already immobilized by the MP, a woman, who was the mother of the man approached, screams in desperation warning the policeman “that he is suffocating him”. Even with the plea, the officer continues to subdue the man, who begins to struggle in an attempt to free himself from the action. Another soldier tries to push the people watching the scene away. Another voice, which seems to be from the author of the filming, says “no need for that, no”, in a clear demonstration that the approached teenager posed no risk to the officers.
At the moment the woman asks again “why are you choking him?”, she is shouted at by the policeman, who is already kneeling on the boy’s back while he is lying on the sidewalk. At this point, the MP addresses the woman with insults, “get the fuck out”, “f*ck you”, “go f*ck yourself”.
In the face of so many insults, the woman says that the police officer is “rude” and “that police who are police don’t act like that. As he is being taken to the police car, the young man asks the officer “why are you doing this to me, sir? Then, the same policeman and the teenager’s mother bump into each other, and the policeman kicks the woman at least twice, until he is restrained by his fellow officer.
While the teenager is taken to the M-37314 vehicle (belonging to the 3rd Company of the 37th Metropolitan Military Police Battalion), the officer who was trying to control the situation pulls out his gun and points it in the direction of the people watching the scene. The video ends when the young man is abruptly thrown into the vehicle.
The São Paulo Police Ombudsman has instituted a procedure so that the Military Police Internal Affairs Office investigates the circumstances of the video, which is a little over two minutes long. The agency learned about the images through the Ponte website.
To Ponte, the police ombudsman of São Paulo, Elizeu Soares Lopes informed through his press agent that the “State of São Paulo has already abolished the use of the strangulation maneuver, which can result in tragedy. The use of force should be avoided whenever possible. However, it is necessary to investigate the circumstances of the occurrence to find out if the police officers used excessive force.
When asked if they were aware of the fact, the Network for Protection and Resistance against Genocide informed that as soon as they had access to the video they presented it to the Public Ministry with the intention of opening a procedure. The Network and the Public Ministry have a working group to discuss the external control of the police.
In a statement, the Department of Public Safety said that the “case was registered as an infraction for drugs for personal consumption without authorization or in disagreement, an infraction for false identity, an infraction for disobedience and contempt on Saturday, March 27th in the 47th Police District. The department also claimed that “the parties were heard and the minors were delivered to their legal guardians. The investigation team is investigating the crime of disobedience. The Military Police is also investigating the conduct of the military police officers involved in the case.
In addition to the occurrence in Capão Redondo, another police approach in which the strangle technique was used, had a video published on the internet at the end of March. With eleven seconds duration, the images show a military police officer, uniformed and alone in action, using a “mata-leão” against a young man. The author of the video also managed to capture the moment when another young man appears on the scene and punches the policeman in the face, who releases the young man who was being strangled. As they both run away, the policeman shoot at them.
The Ponte website sent the video to the Police Ombudsman, who has informed that he opened a procedure to determine the circumstances of the facts.
Another case that drew attention was the stop of a funkeiro (funk singer), Salvador da Rima, which occurred in February, in Itaim Paulista, east zone of the capital. In the early afternoon of Saturday (2/27), military police officers invaded a house where the musician Fábio Gabriel Salvador de Araújo, aka MC Salvador da Rima, 19, was, and beat the singer, his friends and family members, in front of cell phone cameras that registered all the violence.
In an interview for Ponte soon after being released from the police station, the musician, who has several compositions narrating police violence suffered by the population of the peripheries, said that “this [aggression] didn’t shake me, it only confirmed what I already sing”, said MC Salvador da Rima.
Soon after João Doria’s administration decided to ban the manuever, social movements and experts already pointed out that the measure would have no practical effect, and that the chance of being disrespected by the police was great.
“We have to discuss the treatment of the police, you won’t see a policeman using a stramgle hold in Alphaville, putting a white man in a strangle hold, it’s not in these places that there will be extermination, forced disappearances, there are no invasions of condominiums. It’s in the slums that this happens”, said, at the time, Débora Silva, founder of the Mães de Maio (Mothers of May) Movement.
For the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (Getúlio Vargas Foundation) professor Rafael Alcadipani, the continuous use of this manuever even after the veto is due to a lack of leadership in the corporation. “It’s very difficult to control what the MPs do in the street. The doctrine is very fragile, there is a lack of training and leadership”, he said.