Trigger warning: graphic police violence
On the morning of March 16th, Claudia Silva Ferreira left her house in Rio de Janeiro to buy bread. On her way, she was caught in a gun fight between drug traffickers and a pacifying police unit, who shot her. Claudia was placed in the back of a police vehicle to be taken to a nearby hospital, but on the way to the hospital, she fell out of the trunk. Caught on the car, her body dragged along the pavement for over two blocks. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Claudia was a poor black woman living in one of Brazil’s urban slums, known as favelas.
The police later tried to claim that they thought she was involved in drug trafficking and had a gun on her. Claudia was a 38 year-old mother raising eight children with her partner. She worked as a cleaning assistant. Whether she was involved with drugs or not, what the police did to her cannot be excused, not by arguments against drugs, or the “greater good,” or anything along the lines of “mistakes happen.” Claudia’s death was not an accident.
Amanda Viera explains on FemMaterna why normalizing this violence only allows it to continue (translation mine):
“…Killing Claudias cannot be accepted as the political pathway to combatting drug trafficking in the favelas.”
The militarization of Brazil’s favelas in an effort to “clean up” for the World Cup doesn’t have positive effects for everyone. Studies have shown over and over that increased conflict and militarization of communities—even in the name of “security”—tend to increase violence against women. More often than not, that violence comes directly at the hands of the government forces installed to “protect” them.
We cannot fix a broken system of racism, patriarchy, and class inequity with a few extra guns and tanks. We have to change the system, and that starts with treating each person living among us as a human being, worthy of happiness, dignity, and safety.
That is what blog Olga is trying to do. In response to the mainstream media coverage that did not even mention Claudia’s name when reporting her murder, the magazine sent out a call for submissions for art work that depicted Claudia’s “dreams, courage, pain, and fears, just like any other human.” The project is titled “100 Vezes Claudia” (“100 Times Claudia”) and the initial goal was to gather 100 pieces. They reached that goal in the first 24 hours and haven’t stopped since.
It is work like this that allows us to push through stories like Claudia’s. The creativity and resilience with which the artists depict Claudia remind us of the strength and dignity humans can demonstrate in the face of immense pain and oppression.
As Camilla de Magalhães Gomes writes, “I am hungry and thirsty for better days, therefore I am relentless in the struggle to live. Life is my first name, Resistance my last.”
Juliana is looking to discover more incredible online ARTivism in Latin America. Tweet me suggestions!