Police violence is an issue that unfortunately affects vulnerable communities worldwide, and there is perhaps no greater example than Brazil. The figures of police violence in Rio are stark, and in just weeks the Black Lives Matter movement, which protests police violence against black people in the Unites States, is headed to the Olympics to highlight the global nature of the issue.
Daunasia Yancey, founder of the Boston chapter of Black Lives Matter, said “Police brutality is global. And Brazil has its own form of ruthlessness. The movement that came before and during and after Ferguson has been really intentional about a global struggle and understanding that our freedoms are all tied to each other.”
Amnesty International found that since Rio was selected Olympic host in 2009, the police have killed more than 2,500 people. Between 2010 and 2014, 79% of the victims of police violence in Rio were black men, and 75% of those men were between the ages of 15 and 30. According to the Human Rights Watch organization, between 2013 and 2014 when Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup, deaths related to police shootings increased by 40%.
Hosting the Olympics has put vulnerable communities in Rio in a more difficult position. Over 22,000 families have been displaced by the Rio 2016 Olympics so far.
The Rio favelas, which are low-income neighborhoods that sometimes operate under gang control, have been subject to military and police violence and occupation. To the horror of many, black children have been negatively affected by the system. The UN Commission on the Rights of the Child found that hosting the Olympics has directly affected the “elevated number of summary executions of children,” because the city wants to present a positive image of the city’s streets abroad.
Activists argue that security measures in place for the Olympics may only help tourists and athletes, leaving poor Brazilians with a legacy of state violence. This is likely, considering that as a result of new laws, Brazilians may not be able to protest police violence publicly.
As all of the world’s eyes turn to Rio de Janeiro while the best athletes in the world compete against one another, the human rights of black people are being violated. Brazil will undoubtedly be using the Games to attempt to attract international investors amid a recession, but the human cost is too expensive. In light of human rights violations by other Olympic hosts like China in 2008, more and more global citizens may reject welcoming the biggest athletic competition in the world. Frankly, I can see why.