Marielle Franco: The History And Legacy We Cannot Forget

Marielle Francisco da Silva, known as Marielle Franco, was 38 years old when executed, with four gunshots in her head and neck, while going back home from the “Young Black Women Changing the Estructures” debate. Sociologist, bissexual, humans rights defender, black, feminist, peripheric, mother and Rio de Janeiro city councillor, her life came to an end on the night of March 14th, along with the driver Anderson Pedro Mathias Gomes, in a crime that hasn’t been solved yet. Even though a huge part of the society and some parties – as PSOL, the one she belonged to – believe it was a politically-motivated crime.

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Born on the Maré Complex, she was a student at the Pré-Vestibular Comunitário da Maré, that prepares needy teenagers to university entrance exams, when decided to become a human rights activist. According to UOL, this choice happened when a friend of hers was shot dead in the middle of a shooting between the police and drug dealers. From that moment on, the black woman started her journey on the brazilian political scene, breaking the racist and sexist barriers to earn her place and inspire thousands of people as an example to be followed.

After the prep-course, she got a scholarship and attended Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC/Rio) for four years, when already a mother, ‘till graduated as a sociologist. Her academic career continued and she became and master, by Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), of Public Administration.

Political career

In 2006 state election in Rio, Marielle joined Marcelo Freixo campaign team to the Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio de Janeiro (ALERJ) and was chosen as his parliamentary adviser. A few years later, she assumed the coordination of the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship of ALERJ.

Marielle launched herself as a first-time candidate for Rio city councillor in 2016, with the desire to give voice for women in politics, to combat racism and to show that a black woman who came from the favela can occupy the spaces of power. She was elected with the fifth-highest vote count among council members - with more than 46 thousand votes - and became part of a group of 51 councilors, with only seven women.

As a council member, she also worked on collecting data about violence against women, guaranteeing abortion in cases provided by the law, increasing women's participation in politics, and building new “Labor Houses”, a government strategy to humanize childbirth care in Brazil, focusing on normal births.

Due to the considered unbearable safety situation in the hole Rio de Janeiro state, the federal government decided to install what’s called a federal intervention, meaning the state’s autonomy is now, and until December, revoked to the Union decisions. A general was named the auditor and the entire scene is polemic and has been the responsible for a huge number of debates about the topic all over the country.

One of the points, brought mainly by human rights defenders, as Franco was, is the structural violence problem that affects the peripheral population. Black and poor people are the most affected by institutional violence, according to The Guardian, “in January 2018, 154 people were killed during police actions in Rio state, a 57% increase from January 2017” , and when the army took the streets with the arguments of protecting the state, a lot of people started to worry about it.

Because of that, in the beginning of March, Marielle had taken the position of rapporteur for a commission created to monitor the actions of federal intervention in Rio. Known for her active hole for reporting abuses of authority, the sociologist had just denunciated one of its cases when she was executed on the streets of Rio.

One of Franco’s final posts on Twitter called attention to police violence. “Another homicide of a young man that could be credited to the police. Matheus Melo was leaving church when he was killed. How many others will have to die for this war to end?” she wrote.

Protests all over the world

Protests were held across Brazil after the popular Rio city councillor and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, were shot dead by two men in what appears to have been a targeted assassination. The men shot at least nine times in the car and four of the gunshots hit Marielle in the head and neck.

Asking for an answer about the crime, thousands of people went to the streets on March 15th and 16th, in 12 different Brazilian cities: São Paulo, Campinas, Salvador, Brasília, Rio De Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Curitiba, Natal, Macapá, Vitória and Goiânia. In Rio and some other cities, there’s protests scheduled for the weekend.

Also, crowds from other countries, such as Ireland, England, Canada, United States, Colombia, France, Germany, Portugal and Spain, helped to keep Marielle’s memory alive all around the globe.

What have we learned with Marielle?

Beyond any political preference, Franco have fought her entire life for a more equal world, putting the racial, sexuality, gender and social disparity agendas on the top of her priorities. She came from the periphery, got a masters of public administration, was elected city councillor and was working so all the minorities, historically excluded from the political scene as politicians - and also forgotten and left behind on the matter of public policies - could ocupe a space that belong to all of us.

Image Source: Creative Commons/Wikimedia

UNO Brazil classified the crime as “deeply choking” and said, on its website, that is waiting for a quick and rigid investigation in order to solve the murder as soon as possible. Also, the case has reprecurted on the entire world and included comercial sanction requests to Mercosul, from members of the EU, until “the end of violence and intimidation against the political opposition and human rights defenders”.

The investigation, lead by the Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro, is now working with the possibility that the city councillor was murdered on a premeditated crime, and the latest updates says the bullets used on the shots were sold to the Federal Police and later stolen.