Last Sunday, December 1st, a police attack during the party known as “Baile da 17” in Paraisópolis, the second largest favela in the south of São Paulo, Brazil, left 9 young people dead: Luara Victoria de Oliveira (18 years old), Marcos Paulo Oliveira dos Santos (16 years old), Bruno Gabriel dos Santos (22 years old), Eduardo Silva (21), Denys Henrique Quirino da Silva (16), Mateus dos Santos Costa (23), Gabriel Rogério de Moraes (20), Dennys Guilherme dos Santos Franca (16) and Gustavo Cruz Xavier (14) plus at least 20 more people injured.
These young people died amid a premeditated siege by the Military Police, which closed the two ends of the street where about 5,000 people gathered to listen to music, dance and have fun. Dozens of police officers began to crack down on the group that was forced to flee police violence on two only two meters wide narrow lanes or take refuge in bars and houses.
Through videos recorded with cell phones by the population, it is possible to see police officers beating boys and girls, throwing bombs indiscriminately and shooting rubber bullets at people that are trying desperately to escape the massacre. Residents reported that the police themselves forbade them to provide aid to the injured through verbal threats and beatings. In addition, police also blocked an ambulance that was called to the scene.
The government declared that the cause of the deaths of the teenagers and young adults was the trampling during the attempt to escape. However, the first medical reports indicate beating and asphyxiation, and the clothes of the victims do not have footprints. Also in contrast to the official version told by the Military Police spokesman – according to which the police were chasing two suspects on a motorcycle who shot at police officers and fled into the party – such scenes reiterate what we have long denounced: the Brazilian state, is opposed to ensuring the lives and safety of the poor and black population, discards lives and bodies, treating them as the target of explicit mutilation and torture, without the need of any justification.
According to the people present, there was no persecution of suspects on a motorcycle and the only reason for the police presence and their violent attitude was to suppress the crowd. The Civil Police preliminary report itself does not mention any persecution of suspicious bikers, conflicting with the version supported by the Military Police and strongly indicating the possibility of falsification of information – a common practice by the police to cover up their daily violence.
Funk balls are events that concentrate young people on public spaces, especially in favelas and poor neighborhoods, where private cars are parked and their sound systems are turned on, playing the Brazilian rhythm that has been a success in the global cultural industry for almost a decade. Born and historically identified as a musical style linked to poor and black people, funk is the target of constant criminalization and social prejudice, considered by local elites as a “lower” cultural manifestation.
The “Baile da 17” gathers crowds of thousands from different regions of São Paulo, as happened last December 1st. Although culturally rich and diverse, Brazil lacks leisure options for those unable to afford private clubs. And because they occur in public spaces, with loud sound and informal selling of alcohol, funk balls are systematically repressed by the State. The excessive and widespread repression promoted by the São Paulo State Military Police to funk balls is very common. Of course in wealthy areas of the city and when events are attended by young people from higher social classes, this kind of massacres do not happen.
Cases of violence to prevent the start or force the end of these events are common and have little prominence in local media. A little over 2 weeks ago, we witnessed the violent police attack at another funk ball, this one in the east side of São Paulo. At the time, with a gun purposely aimed in the face, military police blinded 16-year-old Gabriela, denied help and even laughed at the injuries she suffered.
Among the countless cases of torture and murder that the police have committed this year in Brazil are the 80 gunfire shots excecuted by army soldiers against a car in which a black family was on their way to a baby shower, where two people died; the murder of an 8-year-old black girl named Agatha Felix, shot by the police with a rifle; the viralization of a video of a homeless black boy being tortured by security guards in a supermarket; and now, more recently, the kidnapping and murder of a 14-year-old black boy named Lucas, last seen getting into a police car. His mother was arrested on charges of drug trafficking without evidence, after pressuring the government to investigate the case.
This escalation of police violence is encouraged by President Jair Bolsonaro, his ministers and several governors of the country, among them Wilson Witzel and João Doria, governors of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, respectively. During their speeches, these politicians elected just over a year ago say that the order for their police is to “shoot to kill” anyone who looks suspicious. To put matters into practice, Justice Minister Sergio Moro proposed a package of measures that includes the so-called “illicit exclusion”, an article that allows police officers to kill anyone without justifying their actions or going through any process of ascertaining the events – as long as the officers claim to have acted under the influence of “strong emotion”.
The situation in Brazil is increasingly one of an open dictatorship, where the laws are not respected by the rulers and police forces, who murder, torture and arrest those who dare to denounce. Still, the poor black population in Brazil does not quietly accept this situation and there are already protests scheduled for the coming weeks against the police violence in Paraisópolis. We call upon the entire global left and the international community to pressure the Brazilian state to respect the rights and life of its poor, black and working population. The struggle against the repression of the Brazilian state is an urgent need in order to save lives that are being exterminated on a daily basis.
By Gabriel Silva – Bank officer and militant from Quilombo Invisível.
By Heloisa Yoshioka – Militant from Quilombo Invisível, editor at Revista Amazonas, Brazilian migrante in Berlin.
By Paulo Marcondes – Journalist and militant.