“Brazil, the time has come to hear the Marias, Mahins, Marielles, Malês,” goes the 2019 Carnival theme song of one of Rio de Janeiro’s most famous samba schools, Mangueira. The line is a tribute to Marielle Franco, including her in the “alternative history” of Brazil exposed by the song. On Wednesday, November 14, these words reverberated inside the Rio de Janeiro City Council in downtown Rio with the release of Marielle’s Master’s thesis.
As the culmination of her studies in public administration at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), Marielle’s thesis engages with the role of the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) in favelas and the repression they perpetuated. The publication—titled “UPP, the Reduction of the Favela to Three Letters: An Analysis of Public Security Policy in the State of Rio de Janeiro”—marks the eight-month anniversary of Marielle’s assassination.
In an atmosphere of both sorrow and intransigence, the release event featured a variety of speakers, both present and recorded, who knew Marielle and her work closely, such as fellow PSOL representatives Marcelo Freixo, Renata Souza, Tarcísio Motta, David Miranda, Talíria Petrone, and Mônica Francisco; State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) professor Lia Rocha; along with Marielle’s partner Mônica Benício and her sister Anielle Franco.
All of the statements were filled with emotion and words of resistance. Many recounted anecdotes and experiences, while also attempting to articulate how the pain and frustration felt from Marielle’s assassination can be redirected into efforts to push back against the systemic oppression of favelas, black people, and the LGBTQ community.
“Entering this place [City Council] is an exercise in confronting reality,” expressed Mônica Francisco, one of Marielle’s former advisors and now a State Representative herself. She spoke on Marielle’s symbolism for today’s social movements, often referring to her as a “giant.” “In her final days of life, Marielle became the giant that we know today. In Marielle’s words: ‘I wasn’t born to be a martyr.’ She didn’t know that she would later be chosen to be a martyr.”
Her declaration concluded with a call to transform luto (“mourning”) into luta (“struggle”)—turning collective grief into resistance. “For us, times have never been sunny. For us, times have always been dark. We will not retreat until we see the Spring.”
Marcelo Freixo, a Rio de Janeiro state representative recently elected to Federal Deputy, expressed his sentiments in a pre-recorded video. He emphasized the importance of holding the event and lauded Marielle’s multiple projects and dedication. “It’s good to know that people will not forget—they will take this book home with them to have a little bit of Marielle in their homes.”
Anielle Franco, Marielle’s younger sister, delivered a heartfelt speech, describing Marielle’s frustrations while writing her thesis. Anielle asked the public to support her family in their grief and please respect the memory of her sister without distorting Marielle into something she was not. “Today, when you say ‘Marielle lives!’ Rio de Janeiro needs to know the essence of Marielle, the real Marielle. So today, I ask for respect. I ask for justice. And when you say ‘Marielle lives’—Marielle lives for whom? Because for many, Marielle died.”
The event concluded with an artistic performance by Mariana Iris, who sang four songs with themes of resistance and blackness—including Mangueira’s theme song for next year’s Carnival.
Marielle’s thesis will be on sale through n-1 editions online.