Members of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Boston-based Brazil Police Watch announced plans Tuesday to travel to Rio de Janeiro this month ahead of the start of the Olympic Games to stand in solidarity with Black communities suffering a crisis of police brutality.
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 Tuesday that the delegation will be “very timely” given the surge in outrage in the United States over recent police killings of unarmed Black men, paralleling racialized police brutality in Brazil.
“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 police reportedly kill eight people every day, and the situation is even more dire in Rio. The vast majority of victims are Black men.
“When you look at the data, it is very very clear that young Black men are dying at the hands of the police,” said Martin, whose father was a U.S. police officer his entire career. “And when you have an entire group of people who are dying, and the numbers they are being killed at, that is a genocide,” she continued, adding that there is a “moral” definition of genocide that helps explain the extent of the crisis of poor, Black men being targeted with lethal violence.
The delegation aims to make connections and stand in solidarity with communities suffering under police violence, which has been on the rise in the lead-up to the Olympic Games, according to human rights organizations, similar to what happened ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil targeting a cleanup of poor favelas.
The group plans to meet with several local organizations representing favela communities, youth, mothers, and human rights groups such as the Network of Communities Against Violence, the Youth Forum of Rio de Janeiro, and others. Activists in Brazil have welcomed the visit.
“We are looking forward to meeting with Black activists from the United States and sharing ideas and experiences,” Debora da Silva, founder of the Sao Paulo-based Mães de Maio, said in a statement Tuesday. “Before the World Cup police killing citizens increased 45 percent in Rio, and now with the Olympics the same thing is happening.”
Silva has organized against police brutality for the past decade after founding the Mães de Maio in the wake of a 2006 massacre that saw over 450 civilians killed during a bloody 10-day standoff between police officers and gangs in Sao Paulo. Her son was among those murdered. The city saw another upsurge in violence in 2012 amid a de facto war between security forces and top gangs.
The delegation also hopes 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.
And the problem is indeed international and scope. Europol, the European Union’s crime- and terror-fighting police force, agreed earlier this year to closely partner with Brazil ahead of the Olympics, backing the security crackdown.
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. Suggestions at tackling the problem of de facto “extermination of poor and Black youth” included steps to reduce victim blaming and to hold police accountable for their actions.
Further underlining the crisis, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child reported late last year that Brazilian police were killing homeless children as part of a campaign to “clean the streets” in preparation for the Olympics.
The delegation includes representatives of Black Lives Matter Boston and other longtime anti-racism advocates, youth organizers, and community activists. The trip will take place from July 20 to July 23, concluding on the anniversary of a police massacre of eight sleeping homeless children in Rio de Janeiro 24 years ago.
The Olympics will take place from August 5 to 21 in Rio de Janeiro.
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