Brazil Police Charge Six in Black Man’s Killing that Sparked Protests

Rio de Janeiro, Dec 11 (AFP/APP): Brazilian police recommended Friday that prosecutors charge six people over the killing of a black man beaten by security guards at a supermarket, a case that shocked the country and triggered protests.

There is sufficient evidence to charge four people who witnessed the killing without intervening, in addition to the two white guards accused of beating Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas to death on November 19, police said in their investigation report. The others include the arrested supervisor of the Carrefour supermarket in the southern city of Porto Alegre, where the killing ocurred. She watched as the guards from private security company Vector pummeled Freitas, and tried to stop a bystander from filming the scene — a video that later went viral online.

“Witness testimony shows Carrefour and Vector employees stood by indifferently,” police said.

Freitas, a 40-year-old welder, was shopping when he reportedly got into an argument with store personnel, leading guards from the private security company contracted by Carrefour to intervene. The bystander’s video shows the altercation then turned brutal, as the guards restrained Freitas and repeatedly punched him in the face, even as he cried out “help me” and “I’m going to die.”

The security guards were arrested the following day, and the supervisor four days later. Sometimes-violent protests against the killing meanwhile swept Brazil, in scenes reminiscent of the Black Lives Matter protests that have shaken the United States. The incident triggered calls for a boycott of French group Carrefour, whose shares plunged on the Sao Paulo stock exchange.

The company has sought to control the damage. It has launched a 25-million-real ($5-million) fund to fight racism in Brazil, and ended the practice of contracting store security out to private firms in the South American country. Race relations are a fraught but relatively little-discussed subject in Brazil, which was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, in 1888.

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