Assassination of anti-police brutality activist and politician shakes Brazil
Rio city councilor and outspoken anti-police brutality activist Marielle Franco was shot dead in what Brazilian authorities are calling a targeted assassination Wednesday night. Franco had become a voice for the repressed, representing those in the poor favelas who were often cracked down on by authorities.
Head of Rio’s public security Richard Nunes promised “a full investigation,” even though last month the military took charge of the police force following a surge in violence.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both publicly condemned the killing of Franco (her driver was also killed), and on Thursday crowds assembled with chants of “not one step backwards” outside of a ceremony which honored Franco’s life and work. Communications officer Camila Pontes spoke for many when she told the Guardian, “I feel lost, without hope… It is a very tough blow for anyone who fights for justice, for freedom, for equality.”
A communications student named Jefferson Barbosa who worked with Franco at the state legislature elaborated: “(Franco) was a symbol of the politics we believe in… I have never been so scared, people are shocked with what happened. They did this to Mari, one of the most popular lawmakers in Rio. What will stop them from doing this to others?”
Matheus de Santos, a truck driver’s assistant from the Cidade Alta neighborhood in Rio says that Franco was a great representative for Black and LGBT movements. Daiene Mendes, a jounalism student and activist from the Complexo do Alemao explained, “More than a friend, Marielle was a symbol of our biggest conquests. A woman like us, Black, from the favela, who had a lot of strength to face the institutional challenges of the politics that always kept us distant.”
Marcelo Friexo, a member of the Rio legislative assembly from Franco’s Socialism and Liberty party, says crime scene forensics show that all of the shots were aimed at Franco and that “the scene is clearly of an execution… (The shots) were all from a professional.”