Killing of black man in supermarket on eve of Black Consciousness Day sparks fury

Rio de Janeiro: A black man died after being beaten by supermarket security guards in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre on the eve of Black Consciousness Day, sparking outrage after videos of the incident circulated on social media.

A short clip showed one guard restraining João Alberto Silveira Freitas just outside the doors of a Carrefour supermarket while the other pummelled him with repeated blows to the face on Friday evening, Brazil time. A store employee stood to the side filming. Other clips, shot afterwards, showed a guard kneeling atop Freitas' back.

Activists, including members of Black Lives Matter, demonstrate in a Brasilia Carrefour against the killing of black man João Alberto Silveira Freitas at a Carrefour supermarket in Porto Alegre the night before.Credit:AP

Reuters reported more than 1000 demonstrators later attacked the supermarket, smashing windows and delivery vehicles. Earlier they handed out stickers depicting the Carrefour logo stained with blood and called for a boycott of the chain. They held up a banner in Portuguese reading "Black lives matter" and signs calling for justice for Beto, a nickname for the victim.

Dozens of protesters entered a Carrefour in the national capital, Brasilia, chanting “Black lives matter!” One held a sign reading: “Don't shop at Carrefour. You could die.” Inside another Carrefour in Rio de Janeiro, protesters shouted "Carrefour Killer!” as a black man lay still atop the conveyor belt of a checkout, forcing the store's closure.

In Sao Paulo, protesters smashed the front window of another Carrefour, scattered goods from shelves and set a fire that employees hurried to extinguish.

Carrefour released a statement lamenting Freitas' “brutal death” and said it would end its contract with the security company, fire the store manager who was on duty and close the Porto Alegre store out of respect for the victim.

Protesters knocked products off shelves in this Carrefour store in Sao Paulo, Brazil, during a protest against the killing of a black man at another Carrefour store.Credit:AP

The men who beat Freitas have been detained and are being investigated for homicide due to the victim’s asphyxiation and his inability to defend himself, said Nadine Anflor, the civil police chief for the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, where Porto Alegre is capital. One of the men was a temporary military police officer off-duty, said Rodrigo Mohr, head of the state’s military police.

The officials spoke on a Twitter video posted by Governor Eduardo Leite, who highlighted recent state policies enacted to combat racial intolerance.

“Unfortunately, on this day in which we should be celebrating those public policies, we come across scenes that leaves us all indignant due to the excessive violence that caused the death of a Black citizen at the supermarket,” he said.

People in Sao Paulo protest the killing of Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas which came on the eve of National Black Consciousness Day in Brazil.Credit:AP

Black Consciousness Day is observed as a holiday in many parts of Brazil. In Rio on Friday, a group of people participated in a celebration with Afro-Brazilian dance and music in the working-class Santa Marta favela. Members of a samba school performed a ritualistic “washing” of the steps leading up into the hillside neighbourhood.

Black and mixed-race people account for about 57 per cent of Brazil's population but constitute 74 per cent of victims of lethal violence, according to the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, a non-governmental organisation. The percentage is even higher, 79 per cent, for those killed by police.

Local online news site G1 reported the incident at the Carrefour in Porto Alegre followed a confrontation between Freitas and a supermarket employee, who then called security. Both guards were white, G1 reported.

After the death of George Floyd earlier this year in the US, Black Lives Matter protests drew hundreds of thousands to the streets around the world. They resonated in Brazil, too, where demonstrators turned out to demand justice for a 14-year-old boy killed by police in Rio de Janeiro.

A protester holds up the Portuguese message “Don’t shop at Carrefour, you could die”, in front of an image of Brazilian runaway slave hero Zumbi dos Palmares during a protest over the killing of black man João Alberto Silveira Freitas at a Carrefour supermarket.Credit:AP

Protesters in Brasilia also gathered outside a governmental institution that promotes black culture to denounce its chief, Sergio Camargo. Camargo, who is black, has denied the existence of structural racism in Brazilian society and called the Black Lives Matter movement “lefty garbage”.

Speaking to reporters, Vice-President Hamilton Mourão lamented the incident at Carrefour, but denied it reflected racism.

“Racism doesn’t exist in Brazil. That is something they want to import here,” Mourão said. “I lived in the United States. There is racism there.”

The giant French supermarket chain has found itself in controversy before in Brazil.

In August, a man died inside a Carrefour in north-eastern city Recife; his body was covered by umbrellas and the supermarket continued operating for several hours. The company apologised in a statement and said it was changing its protocols to close locations when deaths occur.

In 2018, a security guard at a Carrefour in Sao Paulo state beat a stray dog to death with a metal bar. The dog had been well known in the area, and the chain agreed to pay 1 million reais ($250,000) to a fund for the protection of animals.

AP, with Reuters

Most Viewed in World

Source: Read Full Article