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Violence in Rio escalates with murder of city councillor

Marielle Franco, outspoken critic of policing in favelas, gunned down



Little did she know that she would be the next victim when Marielle Franco, a left-wing city councillor, penned her last twitter post, denouncing the killing of yet another young black man in the favelas of Rio. “Another homicide of a young man that can be credited to the police. Matheus Melo was leaving  church when he was killed. How many more will have to die before this war ends?”
Marielle Franco
Last night Franco was going home in a car in Rio’s city centre after an event encouraging black women’s empowerment  when another car with two men pulled up alongside hers and fired nine shots. Four of them struck Franco’s head.  The driver was also killed.
The last speech Marielle Franco made before she was assassinated. Marielle graduated in Sociology and had a Masters in Public Administration. She was elected to Rio’s city council in the 2016 elections with the fifth highest number of votes. She came from the slums, she was black, she was a lesbian and she was a feminist. A human  rights defender who spoke out against  police violence and racism. Recently she was appointed rapporteur for the City Council commission created  to monitor the recent federal intervention in Rio’s state police. She was openly opposed to the intervention, which she saw as a farce, a policy that had only been adopted to boost the government’s chances in this year’s elections. Born in Maré, a favela complex in the north of the city which was occupied by the military for many months in 2014/2015, she believed the intervention would  do nothing to improve public security in Rio de Janeiro. Not for the poor people living in areas controlled by drug gangs, anyway. Last week Marielle publicly denounced the terror imposed by the police in another city slum, Favela do Acari.  “We need to scream so that everyone knows what is happening in Acari right now. The 41st Battalion of the Military police in Rio de Janeiro is terrorizing and violating the rights of the residents of Acari.  This week two young men were killed and thrown in a ditch. Today the police has been patrolling the streets and threatening residents. This happens all the time but after the intervention it has become even worse.”
Video from 2013 demonstrating the ‘caveirão’, due at that time to be replaced by a newer model. After the two men were killed, the police invaded the community in an armoured car known as a Caveirão (Big Skull) . They fired into the air, drove  into people’s houses knocking down their gates,  threatened residents, and photographed residents and their identity documents. One resident reported they were walking around shouting: “We will only leave once we’ve killed three or four around here.”
Acari residents denounce police terror to Ponte Jornalismo The 41st Military Police Battalion, known as the Battalion of Death, is the most violent of the battalions in Rio de Janeiro. After the federal intervention, their brutality has increased noticeably. Hours before Franco was murdered the burnt bodies of four men were found inside a car in Baixada Fluminense, on the outskirts of Rio. All men were residents of Acari. Amnesty International has called for a thorough and urgent investigation into Marielle Franco’s murder. Main image: Marielle Franco. Photo: JackPineRadicals

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Ali Rocha's blog

Ali Rocha is a multimedia journalist and human-rights activist, focusing on state violence in Brazil. Born in São Paulo, she has worked closely with grassroots movements fighting police violence in São Paulo, Rio and Bahia.

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