By Victor Ribeiro – WITNESS consultant in Rio de Janeiro
Once again our partners from the Brazilian media collective, Coletivo Papo Reto were targeted by police during a military operation inside Complexo do Alemão, a favela in Rio de Janeiro. This time, one young resident affiliated with the collective was filming the cops near his home when he was threatened by police and forced to erase the video file.
The young boy was filming on his cellphone, when he was confronted by police and asked if he was planning to send the video footage to Colectivo Papo Reto, citing two of the core members by name. The cop then grabbed the phone and forced the youth to erase the video.
These tactics of intimidating activists, communicators and residents have unfortunately become normal in Complexo do Alemão. And these actions continue, despite being widely denounced by humans rights organizations and local media and international press like the New York Times.
Amidst this routine violence, for many residents their cameras are the only tools they have to expose and denounce these police tactics. The footage and information that comes out of the favela is because these residents and collectives bravely put their lives on the line to create local networks that gather videos, photos and audio, and spread the message to the world.
Their courage is driven by the latent feeling of no longer being able to witness death. By no longer wanting to see their neighbors believe that suffering and humiliation at the hands of the state is a standard part of the life for Black Brazilians and favela residents in Rio de Janeiro. By not being able to stand the fact that thousands of children in the favela spent the week without classes because it’s unsafe to leave their homes and run the risk of “finding” a stray bullet. Many cannot get out of bed during the shootings.
As long as the Brazilian state advances this public policy of racist extermination and declares war against the poor, this year’s carnival theme in Complexo do Alemão will continue to be “DEATH spreading fear on the avenue.”
WITNESS stands in solidarity with the communicators on the front line, for whom we fear and support, who risk their lives to stand up to the increasingly bloody state that Rio de Janeiro becoming.