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News > Latin America

Brazil: Activists Vow to Continue Marielle Franco's 'Struggle' as Protest Spread Across Brazil

  • People take part in a rally against the murder of Brazilian councilwoman Marielle Franco, in Sao Paulo, Brazil March 15, 2018.

    People take part in a rally against the murder of Brazilian councilwoman Marielle Franco, in Sao Paulo, Brazil March 15, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 March 2018

“This gathering shows that we will not give up Marielle's struggle,” said a participant who addressed the crowd.

Protests and demonstrations have spread across Brazil a day after the assassination of black activist and Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco. On Thursday, thousands attended the “March Against Black Genocide; We are Marielle Franco” in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Brazilian Rights Activist Marielle Franco Assassinated in Rio

“This gathering shows that we will not give up Marielle's struggle. They will not silence our voice. Marielle's struggle is present with us,” said a participant who addressed the crowd.

Other events and tributes have been organized in Recife, Belem, Salvador, Natal, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Juiz de Fora, Porto Alegre, Florianopolis, Curitiba and elsewhere to condemn Franco's killing.

Franco's 19-year-old daughter, Luyara Santos, posted a Facebook message that read: “They killed my mother and more than 46,000 voters!” referencing the number of votes Franco received to win her seat as a councilwoman. “We'll be the resistance because you were the struggle! I love you.”

A relative reacts over the coffin of Rio de Janeiro's city councilor Marielle Franco, 38, who was shot dead, during her burial in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil March 15, 2018. REUTERS 

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio 'Lula' da Silva opened his speech at “Defense of Democracies,” an event held at this year's World Social Forum in Salvador, speaking about Franco and her work.

“When I saw the barbarity they did with Marielle, I thought (to myself) that they must be very ignorant to believe that killing a councilwoman, a 38-year-old woman, could silence the Brazilian society that struggles for human rights. Today, Marielle's ideas echo throughout Brazil. She died, but everybody is a little of Marielle," he said.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has also sent condolences to the Franco family and the people of Brazil. On his official Twitter account, Morales, said: “We express our firm condemnation of the brutal assassination of Sister Marielle Franco from the .... of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (We send) our solidarity to the family of this comrade of the struggle and valiant woman who sacrificed her life in defense of human rights.”

Franco, along with her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, was fatally shot in her car on Wednesday night while returning home from an event in central Rio de Janeiro called Young Black Women Moving Structures. During conversations she recalled critical political engagements taken by Angela Davis in the 1960s and 70s, and cited Audre Lorde, saying that “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

“I said that only Marielle was able to undertake such a term in office. She was able to unite and organize and represent and speak with people like no other Black woman who occupied that spot in the council,” said Ana Paula Lisboa, a Black writer who participated in the event.

Police officials said two assailants fired at least nine shots into her vehicle in what appeared to be a targeted execution of the Black activist, according to AP.

The day before she was murdered, Marielle protested the violence in the city in a post on her personal Twitter. In the post, she questioned the actions of the Military Police. "One more homicide of a young man who may be coming in for the PM's account... How many more will have to die for this war to end?"

Two weeks ago Franco was named a rapporteur in the special commission established by the city council to monitor the military intervention in the city of Rio de Janeiro. While three days ago she denounced the deaths of two youths during a military police operation in Acari community.

“We must speak loudly so that everybody knows what is happening in Acari right now. The 41st Military Police Battalion of Rio de Janeiro is terrorizing and violating Acari residents. This week two youths were killed and tossed in a ditch. Today, the police walked the streets threatening residents. This has always happened and with the military intervention things have gotten worse,” she wrote on Twitter.

UN Orders 'Credible' Investigation into Marielle Franco Murder

Franco, 38, was a groundbreaking politician who had become a voice for disadvantaged people in the teeming favelas that are home to almost one-quarter of Rio de Janeiro’s population, where grinding poverty, police brutality and shootouts with drug gangs are routine.

Franco described herself as a child of Mare community complex (also referred to as a favela complex in Brazil). In 2002, she entered the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, where she earned a degree in social sciences. She also held a master's degree in public administration from the Universidade Federal Fluminense.

In 2016, she was elected as a city councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro and used her brief term in office in defense of communities and those who have been historically excluded and discriminated from Brazilian society. 

In February, soldiers began an occupation of Mare, a community which approximately 140,000 residents call home, as they did for over a year between 2014 and 2015, as part of the Brazilian government's military intervention in the state of Rio de Janeiro on Feb. 16.

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