When I went on a walking tour of the city the name Marielle Franco was mentioned and touched upon briefly, and I made a note of it to investigate further. The name came up again whilst watching the winning Samba School – Mangueira, as part of their float was dedicated to her – and I was lucky enough to be with some Brazillians who explained to me the significance of the memorial to her. I knew I had to write about it.
Glenn Greenwald (Journalist and friend of Marielle)
“Her relentless and brave activism against the most lawless police battalions, her opposition to military intervention, and, most threateningly of all, her growing power as a black, gay woman from the favela seeking not to join Brazil’s power structure, but to subvert it”
Her assassination this year has had such a massive impact on the culture and society that in some ways it could be viewed as a positive thing – sometimes terrible things have to happen in order for people to rise up and rebel.
Coincidentally and also sort of spookily, I realised whilst writing the article that today marked the anniversary of her death.
Marielle Francisco Da Silva (Marielle Franco) was a Black, Bisexual, Feminist, Sociologist/Human Rights Activist -turned Politician- who was born, and grew up in Maré – a Favela (slum) in north Rio de Janeiro. At the age of 11 she began to work in order to help provide for her family – and she had her first child aged 19.
Marielle Franco was highly intelligent and educated, and broke every social stereotype and barrier put in place by the Conservative Brazillian Government and Society – she was EVERYTHING they stood against. She was part of many Human Rights groups and Social Commitees, and her entry in to politics started with her working as a consultant, and helping to draft the state legislature’s Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship . She became an outspoken critic of the Police force after a stray bullet in a shootout between the police and drug trafickers killed her friend in 2006.
In 2016 Marielle ran for a seat on the city council and won one of the 51 available seats (receiving the 5th highest number of votes). Marielle wanted to give a voice to the poor black people, (especially women), from the Favelas. She was very “outspoken” and “controversial”, giving speeches and fighting against gender violence, for reproductive rights, and for the rights of favela residents – as well as trying to organise a national day of recognition for Lesbians, (which was rejected in a vote of 19-17).
The nature of her speeches, and the support she was gaining, obviously quickly turned her into a target – and from what I have read, learned and heard, it sounds very Martin Luther King-esque, (it also happened less than 3 weeks before the 50th anniversary of the death of MLK). This made me stop to think really how far behind socially Brasil is. I just hope that the country can learn from the mistakes of the USA, and achieve what the USA has NOT managed to achieve at all – EQUALITY.
Power to the People
The issue is that the governments of large countries simply cannot have the poor majority gaining a voice, and having a leader figure to look up to, to give them hope, and to cause them to think that they have a fighting chance. This simply is not good for business. Revolutionaries that go against the social norm and against the agenda of powerful governments end up either dead, exiled or corrupted. However, nowadays this is all done much more subtly and the blatant assassination of people is something that tends to happen in films.
The UK “equivalent” of this nowadays, I suppose, would be the blatant assassination of Jeremy Corbyn – something which is just unthinkable as it would cause a country-wide riot. Does this mean that the, “Powers that be”, don´t want him dead? Probably not.
We are arrogant in Europe to think that these sort of things don´t happen in our innocent and uncorrupted countries – and in some ways I respect the governments of countries like Russia, North Korea, and it seems Brasil – for openly committing crimes, and being willing to deal with the consequences. The UK and the USA are, in my opinion, 2 of the most corrupted countries in the modern world – starting wars in foreign lands, (yet advertising themselves as peace keepers), and then supplying them with weapons for example. Not getting involved in any of the horrors and atrocities taking place in the world, unless there is some sort of natural resources to pillage from the land. Anyway, I digress, this is a topic for another post.
On 13 March 2018, Marielle publicly criticised the Police force on Twitter for the killing of a young Black boy called Matheus Melo, who was killed on his way out of church.
On 14th March 2018, Franco attended a debate regarding “Young Black Women Moving [Power] Structures” (Portuguese: Jovens Negras Movendo Estruturas). Less than 2 hours after the debate was finished, Marielles car was approached by 2 men in aother car and she was shot 9 times at point blank range. She was hit with 4 bullets which killed her instantly and her press officer received the other bullets although was luckily not fatally wounded.
Upon investigation, the bullets were found to be from a batch purchased by the federal police in Brasilia in 2006 – which the Police tried to claim had been stolen from the Post Office. This was vehemently denied by the Post Office, and believed by noone to be true. There is a huge sense of distrust from Brazillians towards their government – for good reasons.
The Aftermath and Legacy
Marielles death caused thousands to take to the streets to protest and caused people to question the institution and fight for equality – including more Black Women within politics.
Although there have been arrests regarding the actual “killers” of Marielle, the population wants to know who the real killer was – i.e who gave the order for the killing – a hitman is a hitman and should pay the price, but someone needs to be held accountable for this, and this is what people are still fighting for. To read more about the ongoing case I would recommend this article
To read more about Marielle Franco and her legacy, I would recommend reading through her personal twitter page (and using google translate if you dont speak Portuguese), and reading through the publications about her on Twitter. It is amazing the impact that she had, and it is inspiring that her legacy still lives on – which is made obvious by the activity taking place on her Twitter page even after her death, (Twitter is not something I use or know much about but I was reading through the News page about her and it is incredible).
Shortly I will write my post about the Mangueira school and their controversial and anti-government floats which won the Rio de Janeiro Carnaval parade. I wanted to finish and post this piece today as it the anniversary of her death.
As always I welcome any comments, criticisms, questions, and suggestions!
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IG @conor.monaghan5678 if you want to see photos from my travels
To read more articles about Brasil click on the related articles below