João Pedro Matos Pinto was young, talented and black, and he died last month with a shot at his back.
“He has a dream. He wants to be a top lawyer, “said Neilton da Costa Pinto, father of a Brazilian teenager, whose shooting in a failed police attack had comparison drawn for the murder of George Floyd, 9,000 km north of Minneapolis.
“He always said: ‘Father, one day I will make you proud’,” remembers Pinto, a driver from São Gonçalo, a city east of Rio. “And I will say: ‘I have no doubt about that, son.’ Because he is a very dedicated child. He really knows what he wants in life. “
João Pedro, who is 14 years old, is far from the first black Brazilian youth who met an early death at the hands of the police. Thousands have been killed in recent years – and 75% of victims black.
But his murder had triggered an extraordinarily loud sound public protest, amid growing anger over the increasing deadly police violence continues although the shutdown ordered by the government was designed to fight Covid-19.
On Sunday, demonstrators will march for the second time a week to denounce police attacks on favelas and what they call “state-sponsored” genocide black Brazilian youth.
“This must be stopped,” said João Pedro’s father. “The police should protect us, not kill us.”
When the coronavirus quarantine was announced in mid-March, activists and observers hoped the police attack on Rio’s red brick favela might subside – and at first it seemed to be happening.
“In the first 15 days social isolation existed sharp decrease in the number of operations and armed confrontations in the city of Rio were truly welcomed – because this is not the time for this, “said Flávia Oliveira, a prominent black journalist and broadcaster.
But in April, the shooting had returned. Rio state police killed 177 people that month alone, or one person every four hours – the second highest count since records began more than 20 years ago.
In May, when the Brazilian corona virus death rate rose above 6,000, the suppression continued, with 13 people were killed in a police attack on May 15.
Three days later, João Pedro left for his cousin’s home in Complexo do Salgueiro in São Gonçalo when the police were preparing to storm the favela in search of a drug dealer.
His aunt, Denize Roza Matos Pinto, remembers becoming increasingly agitated when he watched a police helicopter hover over a coastal community from the nearest beach where he worked.
His son and João Pedro were among six teenagers who hung out at his home and, despite the shooting, Pinto ran back hoping to protect them. A crowd of armed officers surrounded the residence, and when they finally let him in, he was afraid.
“The front window is full of bullet holes. “Television is all raised, living room, bedroom, everything … That’s terrible … grass is burned from the grenades they throw,” said Pinto, 42.
On the floor he saw a pool of blood where João Pedro had apparently been shot. But there were no signs of his body which, for reasons that remained murky, had been flown 25 miles across the bay to Rio by helicopter, and was only found by his family the following day.
“All I can think of is the horror scene the children have witnessed,” Pinto said as he pondered the last minute of his frightening niece in a building peppered with more than 70 bullet holes.
Oliveira, the journalist, said she was surprised by the rise in “gratuitous, insane, excessive and asymmetrical violence against a group of people who were even more helpless than usual” because of the pandemic. “Favela has dealt with a lack of jobs, income and food,” he said – now they don’t need to be criticized too.
The murder of João Pedro is being investigated. Police reportedly claimed he was caught in the crossfire when they were chasing gang members who had fled. People close to him believe that he is a victim of police crime or incompetence.
“They use these children for target practice,” claims Gláucio Ribeira, a family friend.
His aunt João Pedro – whose son, like four other teenagers, appeared physically, if not mentally, without injury – said he believed race played a role in the bloodbath. “Like it or not, there is a racial side to this … and it shouldn’t be like this. We should all be the same … [But] if you are on a bus and the police get on, they will look for people of color first … If a black man runs, he is guilty. We are tired of seeing this kind of thing happen, “he said.
João Pedro’s father said: “The police need to understand that the favela is a home for good people. Decent black people. But unfortunately when they come to the community they treat us all like criminals. They are wrong.”
When the protesters prepare to return to the streets of Brazil to shout “Vidas negra importam“(” Black is important “), João Pedro’s family is adjusting his absence.
“We are in a bad way,” his aunt said. “We saw the sofa and it reminded us of him. We eat something he likes and we remember him. Poor mother: she has a four year old sister who always says: ‘João likes this! João does this! Look – the cartoon that João likes to see! ‘Very sad to see it. It feels like every time I will hear his voice. “
On Monday, two weeks after his son’s dream of becoming a lawyer broke down, João Pedro’s father paid tribute to a happy, diligent, diligent boy to church.
“The pain is still there,” he said. “Looks like he ate you from the inside out.”
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