By Elizabeth Miller and Madeleine Bair
Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira died on April 21 after he was shot during a police operation in the Pavao-Pavaozinho community of Rio de Janeiro. His death was not rare. According to government statistics, nearly 2,000 Brazilians are killed by police every year. (Brazilian human rights monitors note that the real number is likely much higher.) But Pereira, also known as DG, was a dancer with a role on a popular television show, and his death, which police initially attributed to a fall, sparked protests in his neighborhood, and escalated tensions between police and favela residents.
Footage such as the video above, taken the day of Pereira’s burial, shows teargas and clashes between heavily armed officers and residents protesting police violence. One man, 27-year-old Edilson da Silva dos Santos was killed in the clashes, and reports indicate that a young child also sustained gunshot wounds.
Favelas & Police
Beginning in 2008, Rio de Janeiro’s government began installing “Pacifying Police Units” (UPPs) in favelas with the goal of routing out gang violence and bringing down the high homicide rates of Rio’s poor neighborhoods through units trained in human rights and community policing.
Despite some signs of success, UPP officers have been found guilty of extrajudicial killings, torture, and other abuses, contributing to a sense of injustice and distrust among many residents of the neighborhoods they patrol. In fact, before the dancer Douglas Pereira was killed last month, he had starred in a short film in which he played a young favela resident, abused and ultimately murdered by the UPP.
As the World Cup approaches, the occupation of favelas by UPP as well as military police units has increased. On March 30, 1,600 troops from the police and military raided a complex of favelas known as Maré.
For many residents, occupying police units are one strategy among many that the Brazilian government is using to forcibly evict longtime residents. “Is the policeman here to protect me,” asks one man in the video below, “or is he here to watch me, to control me?”
Many favela residents express that what they really need from the government is not occupying police forces, but basic services such as electricity and health clinics. In the Santa Marta favela, residents recently protested a hike in their electricity bills, an issue explored in depth in the short video below.
As favela residents are increasingly equipping themselves with cameras and social media tools, such as this map tracking violations by the UPP, Brazil’s police agencies have fought back with their own media. This video, uploaded to the YouTube channel of Rio’s military police, conveys a very different perspective of the March 30 operation in Maré.
See this YouTube playlist on the Human Rights Channel for more videos about the police presence in Brazil’s favelas. We will continue to follow the issue leading up to, during and following the World Cup (which begins June 12th) and update the playlist with new videos. Click here to subscribe to the channel, and follow @ythumanrights for the latest citizen videos on human rights.