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Black Teenager Killed In Brazil Sparks ‘Black Lives Matter’ Protests

By Sharelle Burt

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The city of Rio de Janeiro is up in arms after a grocery store security guard killed an Afro-Brazilian teenager.

Pedro Gonzaga, 19, died of a heart attack last week after he was put in a “sleeper hold” by Davi Amâncio. A supermarket spokesperson claims that Amâncio was trying to apprehend Gonzaga following an attempt to steal. Video recorded by a bystander shows incident shows the victim lying motionless while he was pinned down by the security guard. Numerous witnesses can be heard saying, “he’s suffocating him!” Another witness yelled that the young man was turning purple.

“After the individual was restrained by the security guards, the store called the police and the rescue immediately,” a statement from the supermarket said. “The company has already filed an incident report and is cooperating with the authorities to further investigations.” Protests erupted in the streets of Rio and other cities, sparking the start of a Black Lives Matter movement in Brazil and pushing the hashtag #VidasNegrasImportam to viral status. “There has never been a Black Lives Matter movement in Brazil to compare to the United States, but this year I think it will happen more often because the black community is more and more united,” protest organizer Rene Silva said. “We want to talk about more about black lives matter, and for society to understand we can’t stand racism anymore.”

RELATED: What It Means To Be Black In Rio de Janeiro 

Black and mixed-race citizens account for a little more than half of the country’s population. They also make up over 70 percent of violence victims in Brazil each year. And this is not the first time an incident like this has happened. Black activist and city councilwoman Marielle Franco was murdered last year. There is speculation that the incident was a political assassination.

Media outlets tried to paint Gonzaga as a drug dealer with a troubled past. The O Globo newspaper said the teen was on his way to rehab with his mother, Dinalva Oliveira, when they stopped at the grocery store for lunch. Then the newspaper said Gonzaga had some kind of temper tantrum. Celebrities and friends that knew the victim are frustrated over the incident and the way the media is trying to spin the story. One supporter quoted an Elza Soares song saying, “the cheapest meat at the supermarket is black meat.” Another friend of the 19-year-old told O Globo that Gonzaga was “a good person.”

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