By N. Elmôr
On the night of Thursday the 19th of November, João Alberto Silveira Freitas was beaten to death by security guards at a Carrefour supermarket in Porto Alegre. Freitas was a 40-year-old black man who was shopping with his wife when, according to local media, he had a disagreement with the employees at the checkout. He was then taken outside the front of the store and whilst one of the security guards retained him, the other beat him. After beating him for approximately 5 minutes, the two guards immobilized him, and Freitas died of asphyxiation. The event was filmed and the videos, which also showed rescuers attempting to revive Freitas, circulated on social media and provoked public outrage especially because both guards were white and by many, this was regarded a hate crime.
João Freitas was killed on the day before Dia da Consiência Negra (Black Awareness Day) which is celebrated on the 20th of November, an event dedicated to Zumbi dos Palmares, hence celebrating the black community. With the incident, street protests took place all over Brazil, and on Black Awareness Day 2,500 protesters gathered in front of the Carrefour store.
Freitas’ father, João Batista Rodrigues Freitas, denounced his son’s death as an episode of racism. “Just look at the strength of the aggression. First thing I asked was, was he stealing? If not, why be beaten? And why be beaten brutally by security guards?” he told media.
However, the delegate who is responsible for the investigation of the homicide, Roberta Bertoldo, claimed that it was not, in fact, an episode of racism but is still unsure of the motivation for the attack.
The Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourão lamented the Freitas’ death and said it was caused by a case of “totally unprepared” security. Mourão, when asked if the incident was a consequence of the systematic racism in Brazil, replied that “in Brazil, racism does not exist”.
Carrefour expressed their condolences and Alexandre Bompard, the company’s chief executive officer, said what happened was “unacceptable”. The company announced it planned to break its contract with the security company which provided the two guards and said it would donate all of their sales revenues from Black Awareness Day to fight for Black consciousness. They also said that they would fire Adriana Alves Dutra, the supervisor present at the time who can be seen in the videos and who had the authority to stop the guards.