Dear Columbia Community,
March 14th will mark one year since the Brazilian politician, sociologist, and activist Marielle Franco was assassinated with multiple shots, alongside Anderson Gomes, her driver at the time, in Rio de Janeiro. Marielle was the target of an extrajudicial execution after attending a meeting with young black women organized by her political party. Investigation proceedings are ongoing and still, after almost 365 days, have failed to identify her assassins and those who ordered the crime. One year later, we are still waiting for justice - for Marielle, for Marielle’s family, for her constituency, and for everyone who believes in Brazil’s democracy.
Marielle’s assassination, however, transcends its context: it represents an act of violence against marginalized groups anywhere. While the declared motivations will be known only and if investigations are concluded, it is not difficult to assess the reasons if one considers what is happening on the ground in Brazil. Marielle was killed for her brand of politics, for her combat against urban militias in Rio, for her support for social and racial justice, and for her activist engagement for the most vulnerable. But, Marielle was also killed because she was Black, because she was a woman, because she was queer, and because she represented the urban favela.
The violence of the Brazilian state against black and marginalized populations is known, pervasive, and well documented. The bullets that killed Marielle are the same ones used every day by the Brazilian state - in the “pacification” of favelas and in extrajudicial killings, whose number amounted to an astounding 4,224 assassinations in 2016 alone. Her assassins count both on generalized impunity when it comes to such crimes and on the structural and pervasive nature of racism in Brazil.
That is why we need more. We, as a democratic society, need to be better. We need real and meaningful accountability. We need real change.
In a time when other politicians are fleeing Brazil under death threats because of what and who they represent, it must be known that Marielle’s execution was a crime against the country's democracy. It is essential for our institutions to exert justice in this case, at a moment when they are under severe pressure from various fronts. Marielle’s execution is also placed in the wider Latin American context, where femicides are pervasive and where persecution and killings of human rights and social justice activists are at an all-time high.
We call on colleagues, professors, workers, and the wider Columbia community to join us on March 14th at the Low Library steps at 1 pm, for a moment of remembrance of Marielle’s legacy and of a demand for justice - for Marielle, for the Brazilian democracy, and for those persecuted for defending the most vulnerable in Brazil and elsewhere. From Columbia, we will join the downtown protest organized by the U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil, scheduled for 5:30 pm.
Sincerely and in solidarity,
Brazil Talk (SIPA)
Brazilian Society at Columbia University
Brazilian Students Association (Teachers College)