In Brazil, a black man dies of gas suffocation in the trunk of a police car
Socialism and Freedom Party deputy Chico Alencar (center) during a rally to pay tribute to Genivaldo de Jesus Santos, who died of suffocation in the trunk of a police car, in Rio de Janeiro, on May 27, 2022.

The video begins by showing a banal check, carried out by three police officers on a man who lifts his T-shirt and spreads his legs obediently. The three agents belong to the federal road police (PRF), responsible for combating traffic offenses and which is regularly illustrated by spectacular seizures of drug shipments, very often taken up and hailed on President Bolsonaro’s social networks. This Wednesday, May 25, the police have just arrested Genivaldo de Jesus Santos, a black and corpulent man, on the grounds that he was driving a motorcycle without wearing a helmet.

The scene takes place in Umbauba, a city of 25,000 inhabitants in the state of Sergipe, in northeastern Brazil, where it is common not to wear a helmet on motorcycles, the most used transport in the region. Alongside Genivaldo, we see his nephew Wallyson de Jesus, who tries to approach the police. According to his testimony, the young man would have alerted them to the mental disorders from which his uncle suffered. Genivaldo had a prescription on him because he was just going to get the medical treatment he’s been taking for 20 years for schizophrenia.

Suddenly, everything accelerates, and the banal control turns to drama. Genivaldo is pinned to the ground, immobilized by two police officers then quickly handcuffed to the feet and hands. He is then placed in the trunk of the police car, the tailgate of which is held firmly by two officers, while a third unpins a tear gas canister and throws it inside the trunk. The video then becomes unbearable to watch for two long minutes, which culminates in the death by asphyxiation of Genivaldo. We distinctly hear onlookers around the car protesting and telling the police “You are going to kill him”. But the latter remain imperturbable, even when Genivaldo screams in pain and his legs, outside the trunk, shake violently. The video ends before the trunk is opened, but according to the medical report made public, Genivaldo will be taken to Umbauba hospital already dead.

The video of his agony was quickly shared thousands of times on social networks and, on Wednesday evening, the inhabitants of Umbauba improvised a demonstration at the scene of the tragedy to demand in vain the detention of the three agents. The PRF simply dismissed them, sparking further outrage and criticism.

The police “contaminated by Bolsonarism”

“They should have been detained immediately because they are police officers who improvised a gas chamber in the middle of the street in 2022. It is obvious that if Genivaldo had been white, he would have received another treatment. This not only denotes the unpreparedness of these agents, but this event confirms to us that this police force is ideologically contaminated by Bolsonarism.considers Rafael Alcadipani, professor at the Getulio-Vargas Foundation and member of the Brazilian Public Security Forum.

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