Thousands have taken to the streets of Brazil in protest against the execution-style murder of a well-respected councilwoman who fought against police brutality.
On Thursday night Brazilians swarmed the streets of their largest cities to speak out against the gruesome murder of a popular Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman who was a very outspoken critic of the police killings of poor residents.
38-year-old Marielle Franco was killed along with her driver in Rio’s dangerous north side around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Her press secretary was also in the car during the attack but was not shot and suffered only minor injuries. Local investigators, prosecutors, and even drug gang leaders are referring to Franco’s murder as a political assassination.
Franco was a well-known activist for human rights and women’s causes. Murders in Rio have risen sharply in 2018 and Franco was part of a commission that overlooked military intervention. The committee called out a recent government decision on Sunday and said it would worsen police violence against residents.
“It is far too soon to say, but we are obviously looking at this as a murder in response to her political work, that is a main theory,” said a Rio de Janeiro public prosecutor who requested to remain anonymous.
Rivaldo Barbosa, head of Rio’s Civil Police, confirmed Franco’s possible execution to reporters.
“One of the possibilities in analysis is, yes, an execution.”
An investigator with the city’s police force speculated that the prime motive behind Franco’s murder appeared to be her stance on calling out police for allegedly killing innocent civilians in their ongoing battles with drug gangs. Following her murder on Wednesday night, protesters filled the streets on Thursday in Rio, Sao Paulo, and several other cities, where they called for social justice and an end to Brazil’s long history of violence.
“The path of her own fight is what gives us the strength to carry on,” said 26-year-old protester Danielle Ramos. “The best way to honor Marielle is to dedicate every second of our days to the fight that she was a part of,”.
Ramos, a member of the Olga Benario Women’s Movement, an organization that fights against violence said, ‘We must scream out!’
On Sunday Franco had taken to her Facebook page to call out the alleged police killing of two boys during a police raid in an area called Acari.
“We must scream out so that all know what is happening in Acari right now. Rio’s police are terrorizing and violating those who live in Acari,” Franco wrote. “This week two youth were killed and tossed into a ditch. Today, the police were in the street threatening those who live there. This has been going on forever and will only be worse with a military intervention.”
Raul Jungmann, the leader of the federal government’s newly created Public Security Ministry, said Franco’s killing was “another lamentable, daily tragedy that takes place in Rio de Janeiro.”
“We must understand extremely well the reasons behind this and go after those responsible,” he said. “But this does not put at risk the federal intervention.”
Hundreds of mourners and Franco’s supporters gathered outside Rio’s city council building where her body was briefly located. Vigils and protests were planned in at least six other cities in Brazil in wake of her death.
The United Nations office in Brazil and Amnesty International has demanded a fast and transparent investigation into Franco’s killing.
Take a look at Marielle Franco below.