This article is part of RioOnWatch’s #VoicesFromSocialMedia series, which compiles perspectives posted on social media by favela residents and activists about events and societal themes that arise.
Community leaders, specialists, researchers, elected officials, and unnamed sources have protested on social media against the violence sanctioned by Governor Cláudio Castro’s administration in the favelas of Complexo da Maré in Rio de Janeiro’s North Zone. Maré residents have once again experienced brutal violence by the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE), an elite squad of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police (PM).
At the time of the operations, which took place from Sunday night into Monday morning, April 16-17, many residents were walking in the streets and enjoying the end of their weekend. There were several cultural events taking place in the areas when caveirões, PM armored vehicles, and hundreds of police invaded the favelas that make up Complexo da Maré, initiating the confrontation.
“At 12:15am this Monday (April 17), police armored vehicles entered the favelas that make up Complexo da Maré. We have reports of shootings in Rubens Vaz, Nova Holanda, and Parque União favelas,” shared the NGO Redes da Maré in a Twitter post, at 12:55am. Were it not for the date of this more recent post, this ‘new information’ could have been easily confused with an ‘older’ post published just 48 hours earlier, on April 14, following yet another police invasion. This marked the second instance of police operations that the community in three days.
ATUALIZAÇÃO | OPERAÇÃO 🚨 Ainda há relatos de tiros nas regiões da Nova Holanda e Parque União, com a presença de dois veículos blindados circulando pelas ruas das favelas.
— Redes da Maré (@redesdamare) April 14, 2023
UPDATE | OPERATION 🚨 There are still reports of shots fired in Nova Holanda and Parque União areas, with the presence of two armored vehicles moving through the streets of the favelas.
According to a report by the Fogo Cruzado Institute, the first 100 days of Cláudio Castro’s government—who has been referred to as the “governor of massacres” by human rights organizations and favela social movements—were marked by an increase in victims of stray bullets and a lack of transparent policies concerning public safety. “Between January 1 and April 10 of this year, 52 people were victims of stray bullets in Greater Rio de Janeiro. This represents a 79% increase compared to the same period in 2022 [when 29 were killed],” shared the survey released by Fogo Cruzado, which also refers to the mapping of 1,014 shootouts that have occurred in Greater Rio.
Police Invasion on April 17 Brings Panic and Death to Maré
Residents recorded videos of the police operations on April 17; in these videos, which were widely circulated on social media, there are residents running and attempting to take shelter amidst smoke, pepper spray, sounds of gunshots, and shouting: “There are children here. It’s residents! It’s residents! It’s residents!” shouted a desperate man.
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Not even possible to take shelter. Tear gas is unbearable, residents won’t be able to sleep.
The Redes da Maré team takes action during police operations, including those that occurred on April 14 and April 17. They sheltered residents whose human rights were being violated. The NGO also produces information and develops projects and calls to actions in the quest to ensure effective public policies for the group of 16 favelas that make up Complexo da Maré. According to a note of protest released by Redes da Maré, entitled The Week Ends and Begins with Police Operations in Maré:
“We found out that at that moment, a baby shower was ending, [there was] a music event, and people were still walking in the streets. The presence of the ‘caveirão’ [armored] vehicle led to gunshots, scrambling, terror, and a lot of fear. With no information about what was happening, residents sought shelter in the favela’s streets or found ways to get to Avenida Brasil.”
In the note, the organization protests Governor Cláudio Castro’s continuous infringement of the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF)’s ruling aiming to reduce police lethality in favelas, brought by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which restricts carrying out police operations in favelas during the pandemic: the Claim of Noncompliance with a Fundamental Order 635 (ADPF 635). The police is required to communicate and justify any exceptions to the rule. As such, 11 points required by the STF judges, and listed in the Redes da Maré note as unaddressed during the recent operations, include: the State’s guarantee of medical ambulances in places where police operations occur in order to provide first aid to those injured; monitoring through body cameras and vehicles’ GPS; maintaining the scene where the harmful act took place and conducting a criminal investigation; and banning night operations, such as the one that took place on April 17.
Two people were injured in the police operation and taken to Getúlio Vargas State Hospital (HEGV), where one of them died. The psychological terror of this confrontation struck residents over the course of many hours at night and into Monday morning.
Rene Silva, founder of the newspaper Voz das Comunidades, denounced the situation on Twitter. He posted a screenshot from a WhatsApp conversation in which a friend recounts that a police officer put a rifle in her face and threatened to kill everyone, including the children present.
Estou preso em um bar no PU, moro na NH. Não tem como entrar. Muito gás de pimenta. Tem relato de ceifada baleada.
— Rany (@euranysoares_) April 17, 2023
Rene Silva: MY FRIEND’S STORY JUST NOW, AT 1:03 AM!!! SHE LIVES IN MARÉ
Screenshot of the conversation:
Unidentified Friend: Buddy, the police just pointed an assault weapon in my face and said he would kill all the kids here. He said he knows who I am. I’m terrified
Rene: God!!! Where are you now???
Unidentified Friend: Man, the despair. The pain. I can’t stop crying. I’m stuck at the Family Clinic with a bunch of kids.
Rany: I’m stuck in a bar in Parque União, I live in Nova Holanda. There’s no way to get in. Lots of pepper spray. There is a report of a shot that killed someone.
Commenting on the post published at 1:03am, with more than 1.2 million views, other residents also reported being cornered in the middle of the shooting, suffocated by pepper spray from projectiles thrown by the police. There are 140,000 people living in Maré’s favelas.
Meia noite de domingo no PU, tem uma praça lotada de vida. Tem pagode, tem um polo de gastronomia, tem o cotidiano acontecendo como em todo lugar. Vocês não sabem disso porque acham na favela só tem miséria, e que meia noite pobre tem que tá dormindo.
— Thaís Gomes (@Thaisgmsv) April 17, 2023
Midnight on a Sunday in Parque União, there’s a square full of life. There’s pagode, there’s a food court, there’s everyday life going on like everywhere else. You don’t know that because you think in the favela there’s only poverty, and at midnight the poor should be sleeping.
Raphael Vicente is a 22-year-old who has achieved notable success on social media with his comedy videos that he stars in alongside his family; he is the face of the new gshow Internet and TV marketing campaign. In a moving post, published on his profile, he stated that he doesn’t know how to write about violence, but that sometimes violence makes it necessary to write:
“I never know how to start writing about this subject. I think it’s because deep down, I don’t want to have to write about it. My goal with my work is to show everything that the media doesn’t show about favelas: joy, love, and all the power that exists here. And talking about the violence we constantly suffer here in Maré always hurts me a lot. But it’s necessary. I’ve lived here for 22 years and I know that even the violence that the media loves to talk about, the same media also makes a point of omitting and lying about it.”
The post was published at 5:54pm on April 17, the same day of the police operation, during the Twitter storm “#AFavelaQuerViver” (#FavelaWantsToLive) posted by Maré residents, community-based movements in the favelas, civil society organizations, and even elected officials. Tagging the Twitter handles of Governor Cláudio Castro and Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Vicente questions whether police operations in Rio’s South Zone party scene, amidst middle and upper class neighborhoods, are also carried out with such aggression and violations.
queridos @claudiocastroRJ e @eduardopaes Esse mesmo tratamento é dado a quem frequenta as festas lotadas de drogas da zona sul/classe alta? Foi o mesmo tratamento também quando acharam 117 fuzis no condomínio vivendas na barra da tijuca? #AFavelaQuerViver
— rapha (@raphaelviicente) April 17, 2023
And the eternal feeling that your life is worthless if you’re from the favela.
It’s revolting to hear every day Tino Junior saying that anyone in the favela is a bandit and congratulating the State
while we are afraid to leave our homes because at any moment this state can kill us
Dear @claudiocastroRJ and @eduardopaes
Is this the same treatment given to those who attend drug-filled parties in the South Zone/upper class?
Was it the same treatment when they found 117 rifles in Barra da Tijuca’s condominium villas?
The education and health sectors were also disrupted by the police operation: 23 schools did not operate on Monday, April 17, affecting 8,274 students, according to Rio’s Municipal Education Secretariat. The Jeremias Morais da Silva Family Clinic also had its service suspended during the day.
In 2023, police operations in Rio de Janeiro have affected 80,000 students. Data from the Municipal Education Secretariat show that between February and March 2023, schools had to trigger their security protocols 1,322 times.
Maré’s favelas were the target of three police operations in April alone. On April 5, a BOPE caveirão invaded the courtyard of a learning center in the Nova Holanda favela to arrest suspects allegedly hiding there. The school building was empty; classes had been canceled hours earlier.
Yet, in a video that circulated on social media, one can see the moment when two caveirões—the Military Police’s armored vehicles—enter the schoolyard and terrorize both children and adults.
Hoje era pra ser mais um dia de festinha nas escolas e as crianças são surpreendidas com mais política de violência.
Que tipo de segurança é essa que eles pregam? Isso só traz violência e ameaça vidas. O governador @claudiocastroRJ não se importa!
— Maré Vive 🐸 (@MareVive) April 5, 2023
Today was supposed to be another day of festivities at schools and children are surprised by more violent policies.
What kind of security is this that they preach? It only brings violence and threatens lives. The governor @claudiocastroRJ doesn’t care!
Video via resident. #marelives
Lives Interrupted: #MaréCallsForPeace
A Maré teve uma madrugada de tensão e amanheceu ainda com operação. Começar a semana com medo infelizmente é rotina nas favelas. Os moradores têm o direito de ir e vir negado e o direito à vida posto em risco. Basta, #AFavelaQuerViver! pic.twitter.com/tK2owfofBT
— Pri Rodrigues (@eita_pris) April 17, 2023
Maré had a tense night and the operation was still happening in the morning. Starting the week with fear is unfortunately routine in the favelas. Residents have their right to come and go denied and their right to life put at risk. Enough, #FavelaWantsToLive!
Daqui a pouco, às 18h, vamos fazer o tuitaço para acabar com a política de morte do governador @claudiocastroRJ nas favelas. Vamos lutar e mostrar que #AFavelaQuerViver e a #MaréPedePaz! pic.twitter.com/Uu7zcHPYPr
— Benedita da Silva (@dasilvabenedita) April 17, 2023
In a little while, at 6pm, we’re going to do a Twitter storm to end the governor’s @claudiocastroRJ deadly policy in the favelas. Let’s fight and show that #FavelaWantsToLive and #MaréCallsForPeace!
A sensação é de que estamos secando gelo ou limpando carvão.
Não é possível! A Maré como outras favelas, são celeiros de um povo que em sua maioria… trabalha, estuda, paga imposto e quer apenas viver! #AFavelaQuerViver#ParemdeNosMatar
— Camila Moradia – CPX (@camilamoradia) April 17, 2023
The feeling is that we are either drying ice or cleaning coal.
It’s not possible! Maré, like other favelas, is home to people who, for the most part…work, study, pay taxes, and just want to live! #FavelaWantsToLive #StopKillingUs
Camila Moradia, a community leader from Complexo do Alemão, also stated that “poverty is not a crime” and said that the favela just wants “to work, take their children to school, go to the medical center.” She added: “Being a favela resident is not a crime!”
“Essa situação deixou em todos nós muito trauma, não consegui dormir, escutava gritos a toda hora”. Mais um relato de sofrimento e medo de moradores da Maré depois da operação policial de hoje. #AFavelaQuerViver! #MaréPedePaz
— Luis melo 🚀🔥 (@luismelo025) April 17, 2023
“This situation has left us all very traumatized, I couldn’t sleep, I heard screams all the time.” Yet another account of the suffering and fear facing Maré residents after today’s police operation. #FavelaWantsToLive! #MaréCallsForPeace
Neste domingo (16) a Chacina do Borel completou 20 anos. São duas décadas sem Justiça. Ainda no fim da noite, tivemos a notícia de que uma operação assolava a Maré, instaurando o medo em moradores e causando a paralisação em vários serviços + #AFavelaQuerViver pic.twitter.com/hCRdyEsslm
— Brota na Laje (@brotanalaje) April 17, 2023
This Sunday (April 16) marks the 20th anniversary of the Borel Massacre. It has been two decades without Justice. Yet, at the end of the night, we have news that a police operation has ravaged Maré, instilling fear among residents and suspending many services + #FavelaWantsToLive
— Instituto Marielle Franco (@inst_marielle) April 17, 2023
Marielle asked, and we too ask: how many more people need to die before this war is over? #FavelaWantsToLive
The protests on social media against the police operations and the violations of the right to the favela were even published in French and Italian.
Le gouverneur @claudiocastroRJ persécute les favélas et transforme la vie de la population qui a besoin de travailler et d’étudier en un véritable enfer. Maré est frappée violemment .#afavelaquerviver https://t.co/p9eiRmAwAk
— EricBattistelliColetivo #MarielleFranco (@EricBattistelli) April 17, 2023
The governor @claudiocastroRJ persecutes the favelas and transforms the life of the population who need to work and study into a real hell. Maré is beaten violently. #favelawantstolive
Police Invasion Interrupts and Threatens Elected Official in Maré on April 14
On April 14, the NGO Redes da Maré had the launch event of its research “Violence, Bodies, and Territory: About the Lives of Women in Maré” interrupted by a police operation. State Deputy Renata Souza, born and raised in Maré, was a guest at the event and had to take shelter, along with 70 other women who were taking part in the meeting, because of the shots fired during a nearby police operation.
DESESPERADOR. ESTOU ABRIGADA NA MARÉ COM OUTRAS 70 MULHERES, ACUADA E COM MEDO. O lançamento de uma pesquisa sobre segurança pública para mulheres faveladas acaba de ser interrompido por um operação policial sem qualquer justificativa no horário que crianças saem da escola.
— Renata Souza (@renatasouzario) April 14, 2023
DESPERATE. I AM SHELTERED IN MARÉ WITH 70 OTHER WOMEN, CORNERED, AND AFRAID. The launch of a survey on public safety for women from the favelas has just been interrupted by a police operation without any justification, at the time that children leave school.
Souza also stated that this is not the first time she has experienced such a situation, which she recalled as “terrifying.” However, it was her first experience of this kind as an elected official.
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STATEMENT ON THE AFTERNOON OF HORROR WE EXPERIENCED IN MARÉ
The qualitative study takes an empirical analysis of reports on how shootings impact the lives of women in the region’s favelas. In addition to Redes das Maré, researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) worked with two British institutions, the universities of Warwick and Cardiff.
According to monitoring by Redes da Maré, 27 police operations were recorded in Maré in 2022: that’s one every 13 days. According to the last Brazilian Public Security Annual Report, published in 2022 by the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, most victims of deaths resulting from police interventions in Brazil are male (99.2%), Black (84.1%), and under 29 years old (74%).
About the author: Tatiana Lima is a journalist and popular communicator at heart. A Black feminist, member of Complexo do Alemão’s Researchers in Movement Study Group, she is currently special reporter with RioOnWatch. A fair-skinned Black woman, born and raised in a favela, Lima currently lives in Rio’s periphery and is a doctoral student at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).