Protests against racial discrimination erupted in Brazil after a Black man, identified as João Alberto Silveira Freitas, was fatally assaulted by two White security guards at a Carrefour supermarket in Porto Alegre during an altercation on Thursday.
The incident, which happened a day before the country observed Black Consciousness Day, was filmed by a store employee, the Associated Press reported. Following the circulation of the video on social media, several people took to the streets to protest in major cities including Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Some Carrefour supermarkets were also reportedly vandalized and looted.
“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,” Gov. Eduardo Leite said.
Protesters who gathered at a Carrefour shop in Brasilia held placards with signs including: “Don’t shop at Carrefour. You could die”, whilst also shouting “Black lives matter!”
Per video footage of the incident, one of the security guards is seen jostling Freitas to the ground before holding him back, while the other guard repeatedly punches him in the face. The two guards involved in the incident have since been detained and could face homicide charges, the police announced. One of the guards was an off-duty military police officer, the Associated Press reported.
Following the incident, the Carrefour supermarket group released a statement saying they were going to terminate their contract with the security company as well as that of the store manager under whose watch the assault occurred. The company also said they’re going to shut down the Porto Alegre store as a sign of solidarity to the victim.
“Carrefour Brazil has taken immediate internal measures, particularly targeting the security company involved. But these measures will not be enough. Racism and violence go completely against both my own values, and those of Carrefour,” the company’s CEO, Alexandre Bompard, said in a Tweet that was shared by the company on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the country’s vice president, Hamilton Mourão, denied racism played a part in the incident, and also claimed it was non-existent in the South American country while speaking to the press.
“Racism doesn’t exist in Brazil. That is something they want to import here,” he said. “I lived in the United States. There is racism there.”
President Jair Bolsonaro also re-echoed those sentiments during a G-20 Summit video speech on Saturday, accusing an unnamed movement of trying to “divide” the nation, according to ABC News.
“As a man and as president, I see everyone in the same colors: (the Brazilian flag’s) green and yellow! There is no better skin color than the others. What exists are good men and bad men; and it is our choices and values that will determine which of the two we will be,” he said.
Majority of Brazilians who are killed each year are either Black or mixed race with a 2018 annual Violence Atlas report by the government revealing they made up 71.5 percent of the 64,000 casualties.
“I just want justice,” Freitas’ partner, Milena Borges Alves, told Globo news in an interview, per ABC News. “That’s all. I just want them to pay for what they did to him.”