‘Makes you sick’: fury in Rio as pregnant 24-year-old killed amid police raid | Brazil

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In early June, Kathlen Romeu posted a photograph of herself and her boyfriend on a Instagram, with a caption saying that she was pregnant. “I’m discovering myself as a mom, and I’m scared serious about how it will be,” the 24-year outdated inside designer wrote on 2 June. “I snort, I cry and I’m afraid.”

Only a few days after writing these tentative, hopeful phrases, she was useless: one other sufferer of Rio de Janeiro’s relentless battle between police and drug gangs.

In line with town authorities, she was struck by a single stray bullet throughout a confrontation between officers and criminals.

However the demise on Tuesday of one more younger Black favela resident throughout a raid by closely armed police has prompted an outburst of fury in Brazil – and contemporary requires a rethink of the so-called battle on drug gangs.

A member of the family is comforted as he grieves in the course of the Kathlen Romeu’s burial service on Wednesday in Rio. {Photograph}: Bruna Prado/AP

Up to now yr, Rio has seen a dramatic upsurge in lethal police incursions into the favelas – regardless of a supreme court docket order to halt such operations in the course of the Covid pandemic.

Lins de Vasconcelos, the neighbourhood the place Romeu died, is simply a few miles from Jacarezinho, had been final month police killed greater than 20 younger males within the deadliest police raid within the metropolis’s historical past.

After Romeu’s demise, native residents blocked a freeway connecting southern and northern zones of Rio. Protesters blocked site visitors, calling for justice and holding indicators saying: “We would like peace.”

“We would like the police to cease these operations that oppress and exterminate us,” mentioned Luciano Norberto dos Santos, whose brother was additionally killed by the police in 2009.

Romeu was visiting her grandmother, Sayonara Fátima de Oliveira, in Lins de Vasconcelos, which like many favela neighbourhoods is a stronghold of one of many metropolis’s many drug factions.

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Oliveira instructed native media that gunfire abruptly broke out and her granddaughter fell on the ground.

“Earlier than I realised, there have been law enforcement officials all over the place,” she mentioned.

Romeu was taken to hospital however died quickly afterwards from inside bleeding.

The police mentioned officers on patrol had returned hearth after coming below assault and rushed to assist Romeu as quickly as they realized she had been struck. “The officers had been the primary to succeed in Kathlen … They fought for her life,” mentioned Ivan Blaz, a police spokesperson.

Nadine Borges, the vice-president of the human rights fee on the Brazilian Bar Affiliation, which is offering authorized help to Romeu’s household, mentioned that witness testimony advised the deadly photographs had come from the police place.

“We’re heading in direction of a precipice the place safety forces are more and more approved to hold out killings,” Borges added. “That is actually surprising.”

On Wednesday, Romeu’s boyfriend, Marcelo Ramos, posted a tearful video on Instagram, laying the blame on the police. “The wrongdoer has a reputation: it’s the state, it’s the unprepared police. A month in the past, there was the Jacarezinho bloodbath, now it’s Kate – and subsequent month one other household will lose somebody shut.”

Many Brazilians reacted with grief and fury. Ícaro Silva, a preferred Black actor, re-posted Romeu’s final Instagram photograph, with the remark: “The information is repeated so usually it makes you sick. Harmless. Black. Lifeless. Police operation.”

He added: “Black lives matter. And it’s absurd and hellish to must say that.”