Activists from the U.S.-based Black Lives Matter movement marched with Brazilian partners through central Rio de Janeiro Saturday to protest police violence before the city hosts the first-ever Olympics in South America next month.
The activists, better known for campaigning against police brutality and racial profiling in the United States, traveled to Rio to highlight some of the similarities with their cause in Brazil.
Organized by a group of six activists associated with Black Lives Matter, Saturday's march included about 200 Brazilian activists and a ceremony at Candelaria cathedral, the infamous site of a 1993 massacre in which a death squad, including off-duty policemen, killed eight children and adolescents who slept on the church steps.
"The most important thing that we can do is build together and mobilize our people to spread the word," said Daunasia Yancey, a Boston-based Black Lives Matter activist, noting what she called "astronomical" death rates among Blacks in conflicts with police in Brazil.
Brazil, the biggest country in Latin America, is home to more than 200 million people, a majority of whom identify themselves as Black or mixed. Those with darker skin, nonetheless, face significant social and economic constraints compared with whites in addition to a dramatically higher rate of conflicts with police.
Ahead of their visit, Liz Martin, who founded Brazil Police Watch after her nephew, a young white man, was killed by a police officer while living in Rio de Janeiro in 2007, told teleSUR last week that the delegation will be “very timely” given the surge in outrage in the U.S. over recent police killings of Black men.
“The intersection of what’s happening in the United States and what’s happening in Rio during the Olympics preparations is just a heartbreaking indication of the globalization of police brutality and lethality,” she said.
Brazilian Youth Rise Up Against Police Brutality
The Black Lives Matter activists were hoping to bring much-needed international and media attention to the crisis of state-sanctioned fatal violence in Brazil, particularly in the context of the Olympics, in light of relative silence around the issue given the gravity of the situation.
According to a recent report by a Brazilian Senate committee, one Black youth is killed every 23 minutes in the country in a crisis that some have called an “undeclared civil war” and “genocide” against young Black people.
The report found that more than 23,000 Black youth are killed every year and that Black men are three times more likely to be killed than white men.
The delegation included representatives of Black Lives Matter Boston and other longtime anti-racist advocates, youth organizers and community activists.