Outrage is brewing across major cities in Brazil after a 19-year-old Black man, Pedro Gonzaga, reportedly suffered a heart attack and died as a result of being strangled by a supermarket security guard during a confrontation.
Video of the horrific incident, which happened on February 14, has surfaced online, showing Gonzaga’s body pinned underneath the security guard Davi Amâncio as onlookers gather around them, many begging Amâncio to release the seemingly much smaller Gonzaga. One woman can be heard saying “He is suffocating him.” Gonzaga reportedly fell unconscious and was taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead.
The footage is drawing parallels to the now-infamous 2014 video of Eric Garner gasping “I can’t breathe” while being suffocated by police in New York.
Pedro Gonzaga, 19 years, mentally ill, killed by suffocation by a security guard at the Extra supermarket, in #RiodeJaneiro, #Brazil.https://t.co/HCBlgB2Eh9#VidasNegrasImportam #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/Te6IoKjAFL— ubique (@PersonalEscrito) February 16, 2019
According to The Guardian, Gonzaga was reportedly immobilised with a “sleep hold” by Amâncio, a white security guard, which caused his heart attack.
Shortly after the video went viral in Brazil, demonstrators mobilized outside the Extra supermarket in Barra da Tijuca neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, where the tragic incident took place. The gathered crowds began chanting Gonzaga’s name and demanding justice.
Soon after, protests spread from Rio to other major cities in Brazil, including São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza and Recife. The hashtag #VidasNegrasImportam, Black Lives Matter in Portuguese, began circulating on social media.
Black Lives Matter protestor advance in Rio Extra supermarket after death of Pedro Gonzaga immobilised here by security guard last Thurs. “The cheapest meat in the supermarket is black flesh.” pic.twitter.com/ObLn0DD9E4— Dom Phillips (@domphillips) February 17, 2019
André Barreto, a lawyer for the store’s security company, tells Folha de S.Paulo newspaper that Gonzaga ran toward the security guard, threw himself on the ground and simulated a fit. That’s when the security guard laid him on his side and raised up his head. Gonzaga allegedly seized Amâncio’s weapon and began threatening people, according to Barreto. Another security guard then took the weapon while Gonzaga attacked Amâncio again, and the two began a struggle. According to Gonzaga’s stepfather, Pedro has mental health issues.
In Brazil, nearly three-quarters of all homicide victims are Black, according to federal statistics gathered in 2016. In 2018, the government-produced Violence Atlas claimed 71.5 percent of the 64,000 people killed in Brazil each year are Black or mixed race. It’s something Rene Silva, one of the protest’s organizers and founder of the newspaper Voz das Comunidades wants to change.
“There has never been a Black Lives Matter [movement] in Brazil to compare to the United States, but this year I think it will happen more often because the Black community is more and more united,” he tells The Guardian.
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