Marielle Franco, 38, a black politician from Rio de Janeiro, died fighting for the rights of women and favela dwellers. As a councilwoman from the Maré favela, she denounced the police brutality that favela residents, most of them black, regularly experienced.
On Wednesday around 9:20 p.m., armed men gunned the councilwoman down in her car in the center of Rio de Janeiro with nine shots—four to the head. Her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, also died. She had just left an event that she organized about black women’s empowerment.
Her death touched so many people that supporters organized vigils and protests in more than 20 cities across Brazil. Most of these protests were against the genocide of black people in Brazil. For Afro-Brazilians, Franco proved that a black person from a favela could be educated, have dignity and also fight against the social injustice that black Brazilians suffer from every day. For women, she proved that they could overcome sexism and machismo in Brazil. But her death is hitting Afro-Brazilian women, who suffer the most from Brazil’s violent, racist and sexist society, the hardest.
“She died because she was a combative black woman,” said Lua Nascimento, an Afro-Brazilian college classmate of Franco’s who attended a protest on her behalf in Salvador, Brazil. “She was executed because she was a black favela dweller who fought against the murder of black favela dwellers. The genocide of the black population continues in this country.”
Thousands of people gathered in front of Rio de Janeiro’s council chambers to pay homage to Franco, who was buried Thursday night. To show their digital support for her, Brazilians are changing their Facebook profile photos to those of Franco and using the hashtag #MariellePresente, which translates to “Marielle is here.”