Protests erupt in Brazil after black man beaten to death by security guards

The brutal killing of a black man at the hands of two white security guards has sparked anti-racism protests in Brazil.

Footage of the incident showed Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas, 40, being restrained by a guard outside a Carrefour supermarket in the southern city of Porto Alegre, as a colleague hammered him with repeated blows to the face.

The killing happened on Thursday, the eve of Black Consciousness Day, a national holiday which celebrates the regained awareness of the black community in Brazil and their contribution to the country.

One of the guards was a temporary military police officer who was off-duty, according to the head of the state’s military police, Rodrigo Mohr.

Yesterday morning, protesters gathered outside the Carrefour in Porto Alegre, and dozens entered a branch in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, chanting ‘Black lives matter’.

Protestors held signs reading ‘Don’t shop at Carrefour. You could die’, and ‘Ashamed of being white’.

In Sao Paulo, indignation over the Mr Freita’s death spurred demonstrators to smash the front window of a Carrefour store, and set fire to goods scattered all over the floor.

Inside another branch in Rio de Janeiro, dramatic scenes unfolded as protesters shouted ‘Carrefour killer’ as a black man lay still atop the conveyor belt of a checkout.

Local online news site G1 reported that the incident in Porto Alegre followed a confrontation between Mr Freitas and a supermarket employee, who then called security.

In a statement released by Carrefour Brazil, the company said it deeply regretted the ‘brutal death’ of the welder.

It said it will terminate its contract with the security company, fire the store manager who was on duty and close the Porto Alegre outlet out of respect for Mr Freitas.

The two security guards have been detained and are being investigated for homicide after it emerged Mr Freitas died of asphyxiation, said Nadine Anflor, civil police chief for the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, of which Porto Alegre is the capital.

In a Twitter video posted by governor Eduardo Leite, he said the killing of Mr Freitas had left Brazilians feeling ‘indignant’.

He said: ‘Unfortunately, on this day in which we should be celebrating those public policies, we come across scenes that leaves us all indignant due to the excessive violence that caused the death of a black citizen at the supermarket.’

Brazil has a long history of racism and a slave trading past which were uncomfortably brought into the global spotlight with the 2016 Olympics. It was the last American nation to abolish slavery on May 13, 1888.

More recently, right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro has denied racism exists in the country.

The killing of George Floyd earlier this year in the US which sparked Black Lives Matter protests around the world, resonated in Brazil too.

The racially charged killing of 14-year-old teenager João Pedro Matos Pinto at the hands of police in Rio de Janeiro, drew comparisons to George Floyd’s brutal murder.

Black and mixed-race people account for about 57% of Brazil’s population but constitute 79% of those killed by police, according to the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety.

Protesters in Brasilia also gathered on Friday outside a governmental institution that promotes black culture to denounce its chief, Sergio Camargo.

Mr Camargo, a black journalist appointed by president Bolsonaro, has denied the existence of structural racism in Brazilian society and called the Black Lives Matter movement ‘lefty garbage’ and ‘scum’.

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