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Protests break out in Brazil after fatal beating of a Black man

Protests break out in Brazil after fatal beating of a Black man
© Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images

Demonstrators in Brazil on Friday attacked a Carrefour supermarket after footage went viral of two white security guards at the store beating a Black man to death late Thursday. 

According to Reuters, the killing occurred after a store employee called security when a man allegedly threatened to attack her. 

Footage from the incident appears to show the guards repeatedly punching the man, later identified in local media by his father as 40-year-old Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas, at the store in Porto Alegre, according to BBC News

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A store employee stood to the side filming and other clips, shot afterward, showed a guard kneeling on Freitas’s back, The Associated Press reported

The BBC reported that one of the guards was an off-duty military police officer. 

The incident happened on the eve of Black Consciousness Day, a holiday observed in many parts of Brazil as a celebration of Black culture and a means to bring attention to the discrimination Black Brazilians face in the country. 

According to the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, a nongovernmental organization, Black and mixed-race people account for roughly 57 percent of Brazil’s population, but make up 74 percent of victims of lethal violence. The organization says that Black people account for 79 percent of those killed by Brazilian police. 

Reuters reported that more than a thousand demonstrators gathered and set fire to parts of the Carrefour store in Porto Alegre on Friday. 

According to the AP, protests broke out at other Carrefour locations throughout Brazil, with dozens entering one in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, on Friday morning, chanting “Black lives matter!” 

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One person reportedly held a sign reading, “Don’t shop at Carrefour. You could die.”

At a Carrefour in Rio de Janeiro, protesters shouted “Carrefour killer!” as a Black man lay on top of the conveyor belt of a checkout.

Nadine Anflor, the civil police chief for the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, where Porto Alegre is the capital, said Friday that the two guards involved in the killing had been arrested and were being investigated. 

The local division of Carrefour in a statement Friday expressed its regret and sympathies over what it called a brutal death, adding that it took steps to ensure those involved were punished. 

According to Reuters, Carrefour added that it would be ending its contract with the security firm, firing the employee overseeing the store at the time of the incident and closing the store as a sign of respect. 

Alexandre Bompard, the chairman and CEO of Carrefour, wrote in a series of tweets Friday that the footage and images posted of the incident on social media were “unbearable.” 

“Internal measures have immediately been implemented by the Carrefour Brazil, notably towards the security company involved,” Bompard tweeted. “These measures do not go far enough. My values, and the values of Carrefour do not allow for racism and violence.” 

“I have asked the teams of Carrefour Brazil to fully cooperate with judicial authorities to get to the bottom of this odious action,” he added.