'Immense sadness' at funeral of black Brazilian killed by security guards

'Immense sadness' at funeral of black Brazilian killed by security guards

Relatives and friends of Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas, who died after being beaten by white security agents in a Carrefour supermarket, attend his funeral in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on November 21, 2020
Relatives and friends of Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas, who died after being beaten by white security agents in a Carrefour supermarket, attend his funeral in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on November 21, 2020

PORTO ALEGRE (BRAZIL) - Emotions were running high Saturday at the funeral of a black Brazilian man beaten to death by white security guards in an assault that sparked protests across the country.

A video taken Thursday night in the southern city of Porto Alegre showed 40-year-old welder Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas repeatedly being punched in the face and head by a security guard while he is being restrained by another at a Carrefour supermarket.

The clip quickly went viral on social media.

"It is an immense sadness. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I'm struggling to hold back my tears," Silveira Freitas's father, Joao Batista Rodrigues Freitas, told AFP.

In the presence of about 40 people, mostly relatives, Silveira Freitas was buried in a somber ceremony.

The blue flag of his favorite football club, Sao Jose, was draped over his coffin.

"I hope that all the emotion that his death has caused will make our society better... that we teach the principles of equality in school," his father said.

According to the preliminary investigation into his death, Silveira Freitas was beaten for more than five minutes before being immobilized by his attackers and dying of asphyxiation.

Saturday morning, in his speech at the virtual G20 summit, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro once again downplayed structural racism in Brazil, a country where around 55 percent of its population of 212 million identifies as black or mixed-race.

The far-right leader highlighted the "mixed" nature of Brazil and condemned "those who want to sow conflict and discord" by trying to "import" tensions into the country "that are not part of its history.

"As a man and president, I see everyone as the same color: green and yellow," Bolsonaro said, referring to the colors of the Brazilian flag, and repeating what he had said the night before on Twitter: that he is "color blind."

His vice president Hamilton Mourao also caused an outcry Friday when he said "there is no racism" in Brazil.

"We know how difficult it is to raise awareness, because the enemies of the fight against racism are currently in power," Matheus Gomes, a left-wing official elected last Sunday to the Porto Alegre legislative assembly, told AFP.

"But I think people are starting to wake up. Young black people are taking to the streets in revolt to try to change this reality," said the 29-year-old black historian, who attended Silveira Freitas's funeral.

Protests broke out Friday -- Black Consciousness Day in Brazil -- in Sao Paulo, as well as the capital Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro, many in front of branches of the French-owned Carrefour supermarket chain.

Saturday morning, the slogan "Black Lives Matter" had been painted in Portuguese in large white letters on Avenida Paulista, an emblematic street in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city.

Black British racecar driver Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time Formula 1 champion who has been hugely outspoken in his support for the "Black Lives Matter" movement, said in an Instagram story posted Saturday that he was "devastated" by the news of "another black life lost.

"It's still happening and we have to fight to stop this from continuing," he wrote under a photo of the protests in Porto Alegre.

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