Protests in Brazil after security guards beat black man to death

BRASILIA • The death of a black man beaten by white security guards at a supermarket sparked protests across Brazil as the country celebrated Black Consciousness Day.

A video of Thursday night’s incident in the southern city of Porto Alegre captured on a witness’ mobile phone was broadcast on social networks and Brazilian media.

As the clip went viral, around 1,000 protesters in Sao Paulo marched on Friday to a branch of the French-owned Carrefour supermarket chain and stoned the glass storefront before storming the premises, trashing and burning goods.

“Carrefour’s hands are dirty with black blood,” read one banner held up by demonstrators.

Police in Porto Alegre used tear gas and flash bang grenades to disperse protesters in front of the supermarket where the death took place, according to local television.

Protests also broke out in the capital Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro, where a crowd picketed a Carrefour supermarket to prevent customers from reaching the checkout points.

The video that went viral on social media shows 40-year-old welder Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas repeatedly being punched in the face and head by a security guard while he is restrained by another at the supermarket.

A woman stands beside them, filming with her mobile phone.

The military police in Rio Grande do Sul state said the man had threatened a female worker at the supermarket, who called security.

Mr Silveira Freitas lost consciousness during the assault and died on the spot as medics tried to revive him.

A friend of the victim who witnessed the beating told G1 news that as the security guards were hitting him, Mr Silveira Freitas “screamed that he could not breathe”, a scene reminiscent of the death of Mr George Floyd in the United States. Mr Floyd, a black man, suffocated beneath the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis in May.

Both the supermarket security guards were arrested. One of them was identified as a member of the military police who worked part-time at the supermarket.

In a statement, Carrefour’s Brazilian subsidiary deplored the “brutal death” of Mr Silveira Freitas and promised to take “appropriate measures to hold accountable those involved in this criminal case”.

Carrefour said it would cut ties with the security company that employed the guards.