Activists march on the Brazilian embassy following president Bolsonaro’s response to a favela massacre

Police during protest against Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro
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On 6 May, police carried out the deadliest raid in Rio de Janeiro history. This was executed in the predominantly Afro-Brazilian favela, Jacarezinho. On 15 May, Kill the Bill and United for Black Lives are marching on the Brazilian embassy in London calling for justice.

Rio de Janeiro’s deadliest police raid

On 6 May, Rio de Janeiro police launched a raid on the favela neighbourhood of Jacarezinho. Police were allegedly searching for drug traffickers. Authorities launched the raid in spite of a Supreme Court order suspending police operations in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. At least 28 people were killed in the raid, making it the deadliest police raid in Rio de Janeiro’s history.

Jacarezinho is home to approximately 37,000 people. The impoverished favela is a predominantly Black Brazilian neighbourhood. Afro-Brazilian lawyer and activist Joel Luiz Costa shared graphic footage following the raid:

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Jacarezinho community leader Leandro Souza told the Guardian:

human life was worth nothing here. It was a total massacre, a witch-hunt, a horror film I never thought I’d see in real life.

Reflecting on the routine nature of human rights abuses such as those taking place in Brazil’s impoverished favelas, Amnesty International Brazil executive director Jurema Werneck said:

The number of people killed in this police operation is reprehensible, as is the fact that, once again, this massacre took place in a favela.

They added:

Even if the victims were suspected of criminal association – which has not been proven – summary executions of this kind are entirely unjustifiable. The police have the power to arrest – but the courts have the duty to prosecute and judge those suspected of committing crimes.

Explaining the current situation in Brazil, a Twitter user shared:

Bolsonaro congratulates Rio police

Speaking out against Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s policies in the aftermath of the massacre, federal deputy of Brazil’s Socialism and Liberty Party David Miranda shared:

International human rights bodies are calling on the state to carry out an independent investigation into the Jacarezinho massacre.

In spite of this, Bolsonaro took to social media to congratulate Rio de Janeiro police on the deadly operation. He stated:

I congratulate the Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro.

He added:

by treating traffickers who steal, kill and destroy families as victims, the media and the left make them equal to ordinary citizens who respect the laws and others.

Brazil’s war on drugs

Experts warn that authorities continue to use the war on drugs to surveil, criminalise, and kill Black people across the globe.

Speaking at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in April, chair of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent Dominique Day said:

Globally, the war on drugs has disregarded the massive costs to the dignity, humanity & freedom of people of African descent, despite compelling evidence that it has succeeded better as a means of racial surveillance and control than as a mechanism to curb the use and sale of narcotics, which has only grown dramatically in the nearly half century since the War on Drugs began.

Responding to the Jacarezinho massacre, professor Carl Hart shared:


Black Brazilian day of action

The Jacarezinho massacre took place amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which continues to kill Black Brazilians in disproportionate numbers, and against a backdrop of deeply entrenched socio-economic inequalities.

Black Brazilian coalition Coalizão Negra por Direitos called on Brazilians to take to the streets on 13 May to protest the Jacarezinho massacre, police brutality, and the injustices that continue to plague Brazilian society. Jacarezinho based organisation Lab Jaca shared:

Highlighting the significance of 13 May, Matthew Clausen tweeted:


Sharing images from the day of action, Coalizão Negra campaigners tweeted:

Solidarity in the UK

On 15 May, Kill the Bill campaigners announced a march on the Brazilian embassy in London:

The protest is in solidarity with UK-based Afro-Brazilian groups Frente Preta and Encrespa Geral, and Jacarezinho’s Black Brazilian community.

Featured image via Marília Castelli/Unsplash

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