aljazeera– Monica Cunha felt she had to speak out. That’s why the activist joined a group of other mothers – all of whom lost children to Brazilian state violence over the past several years – to denounce the brutality of Rio de Janeiro’s most lethal police operation on record.
“We’re disgusted,” said Cunha, who still lives with the scars of losing her son in a police raid 15 years ago, about the violence in Jacarezinho favela last week. “Not in 15 years have I seen a protest on this scale for the killings of teenagers. These boys are human; they have a name and surname. We’re saying no to these killings.”
Holding banners reading, “Stop killing us!”, the mothers were among a crowd of about 100 activists who rallied at the entrance to Jacarezinho on Friday morning. Less than 24 hours earlier, the impoverished and sprawling favela had awakened to pops of gunfire.
Dozens of civil and federal police officers had stormed into the North Zone slum in an operation they said targeted drug traffickers. Residents reported feeling terrorised and trapped as grenades exploded on the streets and helicopters circled above their red-brick homes during an hours-long operation that resulted in 28 deaths – mostly young men.
Despite the raging COVID-19 pandemic, at nightfall on Friday thousands of human rights activists and youth took the metro to Jacarezinho, some 18km (11 miles) from Rio’s iconic Copacabana beach, to denounce the violence and demand an end to police impunity. The crowded streets were illuminated by candles. “Stop the massacre in favelas!” the crowd shouted.