More than 1,000 protesters attacked a Carrefour Brasil supermarket in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre on Friday after security guards beat a black man in the store to death.
The murder, which sparked protests across Brazil, happened Thursday night when a store worker called security after the man threatened to attack him, the cable news channel said. GloboNews, citing the Military Police of the State of Rio Grande do Sul.
Amateur images of the fatal beating and tributes to the black victim have been posted on social media. He was identified in local media by his father as Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas, 40.
News website G1 later reported that an initial analysis by the state’s forensic institute indicated that the cause of death may have been asphyxiation.
In a statement on Friday, Carrefour SA’s local unit in France said it deeply regrets what it called a brutal death and said it immediately took steps to ensure that those responsible are punished legally.
He said he would end the contract with the security company, fire the employee in charge of the store at the time of the incident and close the store as a sign of respect.
In a series of tweets in Portuguese on Friday evening, Carrefour CEO Alexandre Bompard said the images posted on social media were “unbearable”.
“Internal measures were immediately implemented by Carrefour Brazil, in particular towards the security company involved. These measures do not go far enough. My values, and the values of Carrefour do not allow racism and violence”, a declared Bompard.
He called for a comprehensive review of training employees and contractors on the values of safety, diversity and tolerance.
“I asked the Carrefour Brazil teams to cooperate fully with the judicial authorities to get to the bottom of this odious action,” he added.
In Porto Alegre, demonstrators on Friday afternoon distributed stickers featuring the bloodstained Carrefour logo and called for a boycott of the channel. They held up a Portuguese “Black Lives Matter” banner and placards calling for justice for Beto, a nickname for the victim.
The protest turned violent Friday night when protesters smashed windows and delivery vehicles in the supermarket parking lot. A Reuters witness saw police firing tear gas at protesters.
In Sao Paulo, dozens of protesters smashed the front windows of a Carrefour store with stones, ripped open the front doors and entered the building, spilling goods in the aisles before dispersing. In Rio de Janeiro, around 200 screaming protesters gathered outside another Carrefour store.
November 20 is honored in many parts of Brazil as Black Awareness Day. Brazilians like to think of their country as a harmonious “racial democracy” and far-right President Jair Bolsonaro denies the presence of racism. But the influence of slavery, abolished in 1888, is still evident.
Black Brazilians are almost three times more likely to be homicide victims, according to government data from 2019.
“The culture of hatred and racism must be fought at its source and the full weight of the law must be used to punish those who promote hatred and racism”, wrote Rodrigo Maia, president of the lower house of the Brazilian Congress , in a tweet.