Salvador Follies: Trio Elétrico Invokes Biko

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Relatives, neighbors and friends of four young black men executed by police hit the streets and inflame the debate over racial prejudice.

Movimento negro denuncia “brutalidade policial” na Bahia: the Agência Brasil reports on a Carnaval season in Salvador marked by protests and press attention to the problem of police violence.

It also registers the response of the state military police, which is essentially, “We do not kill them because they are black; we kill them because they are poor, and happen to be standing there.”

Salvador (BA) – Com trio elétrico e foliões engajados em defesa da população negra, o Instituto Cultural Steve Biko se juntou a outros grupos de protesto hoje (4) durante a passagem do bloco Mudança do Garcia no carnaval de Salvador.

With a trio elétrico and carnival revelers championing the defense of the black population, the Steve Biko Cultural Institute joined other protest groups on February 4 during a tour of the city by the carnival bloc Mudança do Garcia as part of Salvador’s carnival celebration.

“Em cada grupo de dez jovens de 15 a 18 anos assassinados na Bahia, sete são negros”, alertava uma das faixas confeccionadas pelo grupo, criado há 16 anos sob influência da história do sul-africano Bantu Stephen Biko, ativista que lutou pelo fim do apartheid. Um cartaz pedia ainda o “fim da brutalidade policial”.

“Seven of every ten young men between 15 and 18 murdered in Bahia are black,” read one of the banners created by the group, which was founded 16 years ago under the influence of the South African Bantu Stephen Biko, an activist who fought for the end of apartheid. Another sign called for “an end to police brutality.”

A reportagem de capa da revista Carta Capital desta semana aponta execução de jovens negros na Bahia. Com o título “A revolta na periferia”, a matéria fala sobre protestos realizados após a morte de quatro rapazes. E informa que nos primeiros 20 dias do ano, 12 pessoas foram assassinadas pela polícia da capital baiana.

A cover story in CartaCapital magazine this week points to the execution of young black men in Bahia. Headlined “The revolt of the periphery,” the article covers protests that took place after the death of four young men, and reports that during the first 20 days of 2008, 12 persons were murdered by the Salvador police.

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Trio elétrico (mobile sound system), Recife

Coordenador do Steve Biko, o administrador Michel Chagas disse que os casos anunciados não são exceções. “Isso não é um fato isolado. Não é de agora que nós denunciamos isso. Desde o início do ano passado, estamos avisando a polícia dessas práticas. É preciso mudar esse quadro da polícia”.

Biko Institute coordintor Michel Chagas said these cases were not exceptional. “This is not some isolated occurrence. And we are not just starting to denounce this now. Since early last year, we have been warning the police about these practices. This police organization needs to be changed.”

Chagas defende mudanças radicais no modo de operar da polícia baiana. Segundo ele, os negros do estado são oprimidos e sofrem com o abuso de autoridade dos responsáveis pela segurança das ruas.

Chagas defends radical changes in the way the state police operate. He says that blacks in the state are oppressed and suffer abuse of authority by those responsible for keeping the streets safe.

“Existe um processo de matar negros e negras na Bahia e os números comprovam isso. 80% das pessoas assassinadas são negras. Nós [do instituto] trabalhamos com educação, mas se não estivermos vivos, de nada vão adiantar os nosso projetos. É preciso oferecer uma outra proposta de segurança pública que não seja essa de matar as pessoas”, exigiu.

“There is a process of killing black men and women in Bahia and the numbers prove this. Eighty percent of the persons murdered are black. We at the Biko Institute work to educate, but if we are not alive, our projects are worth nothing. We need to offer a plan for public security other than simply killing people,” he demanded.
The police reply: “Bahian social order is [inherently] discriminatory, say police.” Source: Agência Brasil.

Salvador – O índice de conflitos entre policiais militares e a população negra de Salvador é reflexo da predominância de afro-descendentes no estado, avalia o conselheiro do Núcleo de Religiões de Matrizes Africanas da Polícia Militar (Nafro), major Paulo Peixoto. Possíveis excessos, segundo ele, seriam motivados pelas divisões sociais existentes.

The incidence of conflicts between military police and the black population of Salvador is a reflection of the predominance of persons of African descent in the state, in the view of Major Peixoto, a member of NAFRO, the Center for African Religions of the Military Police. Possible excesses, he said, are motivated by existing social divisions.

“Nós temos uma maioria negra dominada por uma elite branca. Isto se reflete em todas as instâncias de poder: na educação, na saúde, no serviço público. E logicamente isso – de uma certa maneira, não de forma deliberada pela instituição – vai se refletir na segurança pública”, disse.

“We have a black majority dominated by a white elite. This is reflected in every public institution: in education, in health, in the civil service. And so logically this is going to be reflecting, in a certain way, though not as a matter of institutional policy, in public safety.”

O descompasso entre a formação da sociedade e os líderes que a representam, na opinião do major, caracteriza os problemas étnico-raciais apontados pela população negra.

The disconnect between the make-up of the population of the state and the leaders that represent it, in the major’s opinion, characterizes the ethnic and racial problems pointed to by the black population.

“A sociedade baiana é fundamentada na diferença racial. Salvador tem aproximadamente 80% da população afro-descendente, mas se você analisar as instâncias de poder em nível municipal e estadual, o Executivo é constituído por uma elite branca há 500 anos. A partir daí, você começa a perceber que a formatação da sociedade é discriminatória contra os negros”, acrescentou.

“Bahian society is founded on racial difference. Some 80% of Salvador’s population is Afro-Brazilian, but if you analyze public institutions at the state and municipal level, the Exeuctive has been made up of a white elite for 500 years. Based on that, you start to realize that the configuration of society discriminates against black people,” he added.

Em relação às denúncias de que os negros seriam as maiores vítimas de arbitrariedades da policia, Peixoto disse não acreditar que os atos sejam propositais: “A Polícia Militar atua nos bairros periféricos, que são majoritariamente habitados por pessoas negras. Portanto, os confrontos vão ocorrer entre negros e policiais militares – não que a Polícia Militar saia de seus quartéis deliberadamente para matar negros.”

On charges that blacks are disproportionately victimized by police brutality, Peixoto said he did not believe such acts were intentional: “The military police operates in neighborhoods on the periphery, mostly inhabited by black people. For that reason, the violence is going to be between black people and police — it’s not that the military police leaves its barracks deliberately looking to kill black people.”

What? Just people in general?

The Bahian news media has been notably vigilant over the last year or so about police ultraviolence — or rather, Bahian news media other than Globo affiliate TV Bahia, which is still owned and operated by people named Magalhães.

You see it in São Paulo as well: People with videorecorders capturing gratuitious police beatdowns in, say, Cracolândia, and then sending it in to the TV news programs, which then sometimes do a decent job of trying to run down the who, what, when, where, why and how of what is shown.

The video of Rio cops looting a hijacked beer truck last week, which led to the momentous sacking of the state military police commander, is another example.

As was the publication of appalling footage of a policeman shooting an unarmed man in the heart, at point-blank range, on the Web site of the Extra daily newspaper, at a gas station in Duque de Caxias, I think it was, several months back.

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