Black Lives Matter activists from the U.S.-based movement organized a march with their Brazilian partners through central Rio de Janeiro on Saturday. They wanted to protest police violence before the city hosts the first-ever Olympics in South America next month.
The movement is well-known for their activities against police brutality and racial profiling in U.S.
The American activists were on a four-day visit to Rio aimed at highlighting the risks posed by the giant Olympic security apparatus in a country where a United Nations report has concluded law enforcement officers are responsible for a "significant portion" of the nearly 60,000 annual violent deaths.
Saturday's march included about 200 Brazilian activists which headed to Candelaria cathedral, the infamous site of a 1993 massacre in which a death squad, including off-duty policemen, killed eight children and adolescents who slept on the church steps.
Brazil, the biggest country in Latin America, is home to more than 200 million people, a majority of whom identify themselves as Black or mixed. Those with darker skin, nonetheless, face significant social and economic constraints compared with whites in addition to a dramatically higher rate of conflicts with police.
The trip was organized by Brazil Police Watch, the group Liz Martin founded. Her nephew Joseph was shot to death in 2007 by an off-duty police officer while celebrating his 30th birthday in Rio.
"We are learning about Olympic construction costs, and dirty water and Zika and crime, but I want the world to know about the horror that is the police killing citizens as part of Olympic preparations," said Martin.
The Black Lives Matter activists were hoping to bring much-needed international and media attention to the crisis of state-sanctioned fatal violence in Brazil, particularly in the context of the Olympics, in light of relative silence around the issue given the gravity of the situation.
According to a recent report by a Brazilian Senate committee, one black youth is killed every 23 minutes in the country in a crisis that some have called an “undeclared civil war” and “genocide” against young black people.