Two São Paulo military police officers are facing criminal charges after one of them was filmed with his foot on the neck of a Black woman, who had her face on the ground during an arrest. The officer in question also stood on the woman’s neck, applying all his weight on the neck at a certain point.
According to France24, the footage of the incident, which occurred on May 30 in Parelheiros, was broadcast by popular Brazilian news program, Fantastico, on July 12. The video sparked outrage on social media in the South American country, with people likening the victim’s ordeal to the death of George Floyd – the African-American man who passed away after a Minneapolis cop was filmed kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes, despite the victim pleading he could not breathe.
“I thought I was going to die like him [Floyd],” the 51-year-old woman told Fantastico in an interview. “The more I struggled, the more he pushed on my neck.”
The incident occurred after neighbors called the cops to report loud music being played at a bar operated by the victim. Bars and restaurants in the city have been ordered to shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the police responded to the scene, they arrested one of the several people they claimed they saw drinking alcohol in front of the bar.
The woman told Fantastico the man who was arrested was also assaulted by the officers and she tried to intervene. One of the footages of the incident showed one of the officers pinning a man along the sidewalk with the bar owner close by and trying to talk to them, France24 reports.
Other videos also showed another officer pointing a gun at another man who was standing in the middle of the street with his hands up. The officer was later seen pushing the woman away from the other pinned man on the sidewalk when he made his way to join his colleague.
“I told him [the officer] to stop. He pushed me against the door of the bar and punched me three times. He made me fall and he broke my leg,” the woman said.
TV Globo, the network on which Fantastico is broadcast, said the videos they obtained does not include footage of the alleged aforementioned assault.
“Then, he put one knee on my neck and another on my side. I lost consciousness four times.”
MailOnline reports the woman was taken to the hospital after the arrest and treated for a fractured tibia as well as cuts on her face and body, which required 16 stitches. The two officers, who were fired in the aftermath of the incident, initially alleged the group attacked them with an iron rod and charged them with contempt, disobedience, resisting arrest and bodily injury.
The videos of the incident broadcast by TV Globo do not show footages of the alleged attack on the officers. In a press conference on Monday, São Paulo governor João Doria condemned the incident and the officers involved.
“I want to make it clear that the State of São Paulo does not tolerate and will not tolerate any behavior that is violence practiced by the Military Police, the Civil Police, the Fire Department or any other police that is under the command of the State of São Paulo,” he said.
“It is unacceptable that few compromise many. In other words, condemnable actions by a few compromise an organization with more than 80,000 police officers and who do their job well.”
Doria also announced 2,000 police officers will start wearing body cameras from August. To curb the recent increase of police use of excessive force against civilians that have been captured on video, the governor also introduced a 20-day training program for officers in June.
The death of George Floyd in the United States triggered protests against the Brazilian police force, which is regarded as one of the deadliest police forces in the world. RFI reports 25,000 civilians were killed by the Brazilian police force between 2015 and 2019, with majority of the victims being Black, young, male and underprivileged.