For the original article in Portuguese by Betinho Casas Novas published in Voz das Comunidades click here.
Like 2014, 2015 began violently, with people killed, shot, and injured. The hope that residents of Complexo do Alemão had for the year 2015 was of a calm, prosperous, and peaceful change, considering the violent year that had preceded it. But the first months of 2015 showed that residents have to, increasingly, live with and resist all the violence and the problems in the community. Instead of a New Year’s Eve with shouts of “peace,” “prosperity,” “health,” and “love,” the words “justice,” “out with the UPP,” “enough,” and “peace in Alemão” were heard.
On March 19, yet another victim of a stray bullet shocked the entire community. Vanessa dos Santos Abcassis, 38, was shot on her doorstep while talking to a neighbor. The shot came after a gunfight in the Central community at the top of Alemão, hitting her thigh near her abdomen. Vanessa was taken to the Emergency Medical Unit (UPA), but was already dead. Vanessa’s family was shocked and vented in protest on social networks.
Over the following month, two more deaths outraged residents of Alemão and of Brazil: a woman and a child aged only 10 years old. Elizabeth Moura, 41, was with her family at home, sitting on her couch in the living room, when she was hit in the neck by a bullet. When the shot was fired, an intense shootout was taking place in the area. Aside from Elizabeth, another person was hit. The victim was her daughter, Maynara Moura, 14 years old, injured in the arm next to her mother. Mother and daughter were taken by residents to the nearest emergency room. Maynara was treated and discharged shortly after, but her mother did not survive and died at the hospital.
The day after Elizabeth’s death, the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police carried out an operation to reconstruct the accident at the location where the woman and her daughter were hit. The operation took an entire day. That night images circulated on social networks showing yet another victim of a stray bullet. This time it was a child who was only 10 years old. “Murderer, murderer!” cried the residents in a video shared by over a thousand people within the hour.
Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira was hit in the head by a bullet while waiting at the door of his home for his sister to arrive from work. In a matter of minutes, images of the dead boy circulated across the world.
“The minute my son left to go to the front door, those bastards [referring to the Military Police] killed my son…”, the boy’s mother, Tereza Maria de Jesus, said in anger. Our team (at Jornal Voz das Comunidades) was one of the few to cover Eduardo’s death on the spot in real time. The team arrived an hour after the boy’s death after being called in by residents. The same night, around 200 residents held a symbolic protest at the entrance of the community with candles, shouts for justice, and banners.
Three days after this sad incident, around 1,000 residents took to the streets of Alemão in protest over the deaths. With banners, flags and white sheets, residents marched through the whole community. In the lower part of Alemão, the Military Police clashed with protestors, dispersing the crowd with flash bombs and tear gas. Around five people ended up at the Emergency Medical Unit at Alemão, injured in the confusion and hit by rubber bullets and shrapnel from bombs thrown by the police.
An act for peace organized by an activist group from Alemão was held a week after Eduardo’s death. This time, to avoid a possible confrontation with the police, the act was organized with sound cars, shirts, banners, and cultural interventions, in addition to the presence of celebrities and the national and international press. Around 2,000 people participated in the march, which started at the Grota community and ended at Praça de Inhaúma. The police monitored everything up close.
The death of the boy Eduardo triggered the outrage of residents of Alemão, which was broadcast on news networks across the globe under the title “War in Alemão” or even “Chaos in Rio.” Within a short period of time, the Rio state government, represented by Governor Pezão, assumed the state’s culpability for the deaths of Eduardo and Elizabeth Moura. However, the agents involved in Eduardo’s death haven’t been charged for the killing, seven months after the incident.
A survey carried out by Voz das Comunidades showed that in 2015, 44 people were hit in shootouts in Complexo do Alemão. Of these, 22 died. This exceeds the numbers from 2014, when 27 people were hit, with 14 deaths. The year 2015 was the most violent since the occupation in 2010 by military forces.