Activists Across Latin America Are Marching in Solidarity With 'Black Lives Matter' Protests in the US
From Panama, Colombia, Brazil, and El Salvador to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico, here's how Afro-Latino activists are uniting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in memory of George Floyd.
It was a powerful sight — the words "Black Lives Matter," inscribed above a large Black power fist, were projected against the side of Costa Rica's legislative assembly building Tuesday night.
It was one of many acts across Latin America over the past two weeks, not only in solidarity with Black lives in the U.S. but also with Black communities in their home countries, where Black people are also targets of state-sanctioned violence.
Hashtags in support—including #NoPodemosRespirar! #LasVidasNegrasImportan! #NoAlRacismo #SoyGeorgeFloyd (We Can't Breathe, Black Lives Matter, No to Racism, and I am George Floyd)—have been spreading through social media as Black Latin Americans have joined in marches and protests, virtual and in-person.
"The bullet that kills there is the same one that kills here," Brazilian group ColectivoJuntos posted on Instagram June 5, in a call for a global fight against racism.
Spotlight on police violence in Brazil<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM5MDcxNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NTg3OTYzN30.DODdpviZOd4_Pf9WdRTiuR1AjxZL6bFiDIj7hyimKyM/img.jpg?width=980" id="71769" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="16125c313bf16d283e5e09a19ef0dbc4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Afro-Latino Black Lives Matter activists in Brazil." />
Protest Against Racism and Bolsonaro in Support of Democracy and the Black Lives Matter Movement in Niteroi Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic
Photo by Luis Alvarenga/Getty Images<p>Brazilian activist <strong>Marry Ferreira</strong>, who works as the communications coordinator for <a href="http://www.afroresistance.org/" target="_blank">AfroResistance</a>, an organization focused on racial justice in the Americas, said the feeling is similar back in her home country as well. "There is no way to talk about democracy in Brazil and not mention the institutionalized racism and violence that kills Black people. The movement to end police brutality and other types of violence against our communities are global."</p><p>The statistics around police brutality in Brazil alone are staggering. The <a href="https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/brazils-violence-map-shows-alarming-trends" target="_blank">2018 Brazil Violence Map</a>, a study conducted by two think tanks in the country, estimates that a Black person is murdered in Brazil <a href="https://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/en/direitos-humanos/noticia/2017-11/un-campaign-warns-about-violence-against-black-people-brazil" target="_blank">every 23 minutes</a>. Between 2006 and 2016, police in Rio killed <a href="https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/07/07/good-cops-are-afraid/toll-unchecked-police-violence-rio-de-janeiro" target="_blank">more than 8,000 people</a>, 75 percent of them were Black men. State police <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-51220364" target="_blank">killed 1,810 people</a> in 2019, nearly five a day, in the name of Rio Governor <strong>Wilson Witzel</strong>'s "war on drugs," which primarily targets Black favelados.</p><p>A month after 26-year-old medical technician <strong>Breonna Taylor</strong> was killed in her home by police in the U.S. in March., a 14-year-old boy in Brazil, <strong>João Pedro</strong>, was also killed in his own home—shot in his back by police, with the support of the country's openly white supremacist president, <strong>Jair Bolsonaro</strong>, who has <a href="https://pedromaganem.jusbrasil.com.br/noticias/524992673/policial-que-nao-mata-nao-e-policial-diz-bolsonaro" target="_blank">said</a> "a police officer who does not kill, is not a police officer."</p><p>"In Brazil, our communities are fighting to end state violence that is represented by police brutality and also by the negligence of the state to decide who lives and who dies amid a global pandemic," said Ferreira. "In the state of Sao Paulo, Black people have 62 percent more chance of dying from Coronavirus than white people." (A separate <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/09/enormous-disparities-coronavirus-death-rates-expose-brazils-deep-racial-inequalities" target="_blank">study</a> in Brazil found that 55 percent of Black or mixed-race COVID patients died from the virus—compared to 38 percent of white patients.)</p><p>Ferreira mentioned the recent case of <strong>Miguel Otavio</strong>, the five-year-old son of <strong>Mirtes Renata de Souza</strong>, who was forced to bring her son to work with her as daycares are currently closed due to COVID-19. The mother left her son in the care of her employer, as she went out momentarily to walk her employer's dogs. Security camera video <a href="https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-52932110" target="_blank">captured the employer</a> placing the boy into the elevator and sending him off on his own. He died soon after, by falling from the ninth floor.</p><p>Brazilians have also invoked the names of <a href="https://blavity.com/officer-involved-killing-of-19-year-old-afro-brazilian-pedro-gonzaga-sparks-comparisons-to-murder-of-eric-garner?category1=politics&subCat=news" target="_blank"><strong>Pedro Gonzaga</strong></a>, who died in 2019 after being choked by a supermarket security guard; <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-26638995" target="_blank"><strong>Claudia Ferreira</strong></a>, dragged by a police car after being shot in 2014; and <a href="https://www.okayafrica.com/tag/marielle-franco" target="_self"><strong>Marielle Franco</strong></a>, the only Black woman on Rio's city council, and Anderson Franco, who were both killed in 2018, in a rain of bullets aimed at their vehicle — their murderers still not been brought to justice.</p>
Afro-Colombian voices silenced<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM5MDcyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTcxMTI1Mn0.DP3mU0g1fsHM26iAh3-DqENWNQc-Pv-xu9hIacvRwsM/img.jpg?width=980" id="45287" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="246f8e1d2a64863f57de91359c2446ad" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Afro-Latino activists marching in solidarity with black lives matter." />
People take part in a demonstration in Bogota, Colombia, on June 3, 2020 in front of US Embassy to protest against the murder of George Floyd in the United States and for the murder by police of Anderson Arboleda in Cauca, Colombia.
(Photo by Sebastian Barros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)<p>Violence in <a href="https://www.okayafrica.com/tag/colombia" target="_self">Colombia</a> is also claiming the lives of Black social leaders. In particular, Afro-Colombian and Indigenous activists have been assassinated for defending their ancestral lands on the Pacific Coast. Although a peace treaty was signed in 2016 between the Colombian government and the FARC, to end an armed conflict that had been ongoing since 1964, social leaders have <a href="https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/overview-violence-social-leaders-colombia/" target="_blank">continued to be targeted</a>, mostly by criminal gangs. </p> <p>Currently, with "stay-at-home" orders for COVID-19, leaders have been especially vulnerable to attacks. This is just part of the ongoing "genocide," said human-rights and environmental activist Francia Marquez, who survived an armed attack in May 2019. With Black women at the helm, <a href="https://www.okayafrica.com/afro-colombians-demand-to-be-counted-in-census/" target="_self">Black Colombian organizations</a> have been marching and striking for years, demanding collective human rights, basic services, ancestral land rights, and resistance to land and port privatization that forces Black residents into extreme poverty. They also demand an end to violence and corruption, and for health system reform. </p> <p>One march in particular spanned over three weeks in 2019, while 2017 saw a nearly month-long <a href="https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/parocivicobuenaventura/" target="_blank">strike</a> and protest in port city Buenaventura, and, in 2014, Black women marched to Bogota, the country's capital, from the predominantly Afro-Colombian department of Cauca. </p> <p>Cauca has once again made headlines after Anderson Arboleda, a 24-year-old Black man, was <a href="https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-52914249" target="_blank">killed</a> there in May, three days after being beaten by police on the doorstep of his home.</p>