About 50 protesters in Brazil descended on Copacabana beach on Sunday to stage a mock funeral for Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira, a 10-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police during a raid on drug traffickers in a Rio de Janeiro slum Thursday. The case has sparked demonstrations in Rio’s favelas, and the Copacabana protest signaled that Eduardo’s death also was seen as an outrage by Rio’s middle-class residents.
Sunday’s protest, which included demonstrators holding a tiny coffin and signs that read “Je Suis Eduardo” (“I Am Eduardo” in French, a reference to the Paris terror attacks against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Twitter hashtag that followed) was conducted “to show the solidarity of the middle class with the Complexo do Alemão,” organizer Carlos Costa of the nongovernmental organization Rio de Paz told Brazilian media outlet Globo. The Complexo do Alemão is the name of the slum, or favela, where Eduardo had been playing with a cell phone on the doorstep of his home when military police shot him during clashes with drug traffickers. He was the fourth person to be killed in the slum within a 24-hour period. Other deaths included a woman killed by a stray bullet Wednesday during a shootout between police and drug traffickers.
Eduardo’s family disputed the police account that there was a shootout. They also said the boy was not involved with drugs.
"There was no shootout. The only shot heard was the one that killed my son. I ran out of the house and recognized an officer from the SWAT team near Eduardo, who was lying on the ground. When I got close, he told me he would kill me too," his mother, Terezinha Maria de Jesus, told Globo, according to Agence France-Presse.
Tense protests erupted in the favela Friday, when police had to fire tear gas to calm demonstrators. Some of the protesters shouted, “The police do nothing but kill our neighbors!” AFP reported. The protests continued Saturday as residents vented their anger. “We can’t have a 10-year-old child having his brains blown out in front of his mother who’s watching TV in the living room -- without having society yell about it,” one of the Saturday protesters said.
Rivaldo Barbaosa, a law enforcement official, said authorities would find whoever was behind Eduardo’s killing. "We will strive our best to find those responsible,” he said. “No one will be protected.” Police who fired shots during the incident were taken off street duty as authorities continue the investigation.
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff weighed in on the controversy. "The circumstances of this death must be clarified and those responsible tried and punished,” she said.