Marielle Franco (27 July 1979 – 14 March 2018) a politician, human rights activist, sociologist, feminist, loved family member and mum.
We were shocked and deeply saddened by the execution-style murder of activist Marielle Franco on the 14th of March 2018, after attending a women's empowerment event. In history, sometimes the politically motivated murder of those who fight for justice or those who are the voice for the voiceless, captures our attention. Steve Biko’s assassination on 12 September 1977, Pretoria, South Africa. I remember chanting…Biko…Biko!, marching during the anti Springbok Tour protest in Auckland New Zealand, on September 12th, 1981. We remember Martin Luther King of-course. Not so well known was Pemulwuy assassinated on 2 June 1802 who was noted for his resistance to the European settlement of Australia. I was in Kanaky New Caledonia not long after Jean-Marie Tjibaou, Kanak independence leader was killed. In West Papua Mako Tabuni, Chairman of main civil resistance independence organisation, West Papua National Committee (KNPB) was assassinated in 2009 by Indonesian military Detachment 88. In 2003 Marcos Veron and in 2011 Nísio Gomes leaders on Brazilian Guarani Indians were assassinated. There are countless more and many will never be known or named but they were loved family members and important to their neighbourhood, community village or tribe so we remember them.
Franco, a Rio city Councillor from the city’s tough drug gang-controlled neighbourhood of Maré, was shot along with her driver Anderson Pedro Gomes near the city center; her killing will continue to create powerful shock waves. Poor people, black folk, youth and indigenous people have access to powerful social media platforms, txt, snap chat, Instagram and YouTube and use these platforms to communicate issues or represent the voices of the those with little access to power or influence, these very media also make them visible and vulnerable. Throughout history people like Franco, are more likely to encounter political violence to silence their protest or what they represent or become targets of propaganda to attack their character. But her voice and those of many others should not be silenced or suppressed, nor should people be discouraged from participating in local national or global political processes because of her killing. The cost of citizenship is that we are bound together by our humanity and inseparable from each other and therefore have a collective responsibility to both care for and protect each other.
Earlier this year there were spontaneous protests in São Paulo and other cities in Brazil against the murder and it people have expressed public anger about Brazil’s entrenched problems of inequality and violence against women, black people and the poor. Franco developed a political platform focused on confronting racism and gender inequality and the elimination of violence. She also understood the complex cartographies of the city of 6.5 million and could see the invisible borders drawn by gangs or drug factions.
As an activist Franco cited a UN figure that one young African Brazilian is killed every 23 minutes in the country. Further she was quoted as saying that “We (the black population of Brazil) were enslaved, then imprisoned and now we are being assassinated.” Franco alleged that police were murdering youths in Rio’s Favela, and harassing residents with near impunity. “One more homicide of a youth that can be put on the account of the military police”.
Franco was assassinated in the Estácio neighborhood, near Rio’s city hall and not far from the Maracanã football stadium, where security was high. Her name joins an endless list of many around the world who have stood up for justice, joined a protest or were just going about their normal life only for their beautiful, vibrant and deeply connected lives to be taken or harmed.
Young people and tourists will continue to visit Rio and the Statue of the Great Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain. However, whilst we look up at its reach we should also cast our eyes down the mountain. We should remember that the statue is of Jesus Christ a humble man who sacrificed his life for others. Its size and dominance over the Rio landscape is significant but it should not be missed that under the reach of its shadow lie the city villages Cerro-Cora, Vila Candido and Guararapes Favela; places and people Marielle Franco represented and gave voice to, for and with.
Marielle Franco (27 July 1979 – 14 March 2018)
Sjimmy Fransen (Dutch & Suriname)