Tension in Rio’s Copacabana after dancer death protest violence

Anadolu Agency

RIO DE JANEIRO – The upmarket Copacabana neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro remained tense on Friday after more violent clashes broke out on Thursday night between police and protesters angered by the killing of local dancer Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira.

Friday morning saw an increased military police presence in the world-famous tourist hotspot, set in Rio’s beach-lined South Zone, local residents told Anadolu Agency, particularly around the entrance to the Pavão-Pavãozinho favela (shantytown) community, which sits on a hillside overlooking Copacabana.

Some shops stayed closed on Friday morning after Thursday’s unrest. Protesters threw rocks and bins at police who responded with stun grenades, rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the angry crowds.

“The area was tense, but things are back to normal now, and businesses have opened up,” the manager of a hotel near the entrance to the favela in Copacabana told AA on Friday. “But we have reinforced security just in case.”

The area is set to welcome an influx of visitors for the World Cup, which begins in seven weeks. Rio will host seven matches, including the 13 July final.

Brazil Copacabana Rio DG protest violence. Photo: AP.

Protesters threw rocks and bins at police, who responded with pepper spray and rubber bullets at a Copacabana protest over Pereira’s death. Photo: AP

The renewed protests followed a funeral for the dancer, who was 26 and also known as “DG”. The service was held under tight security and was attended by around 400 people, including television celebrities who had previously worked with the dancer.

Pereira’s body was found on Tuesday but the circumstances surrounding his death have remained unclear. Police now say he died from a gunshot wound, contradicting earlier accounts that he had died as the result of a fall.

Extra newspaper published an image on Friday of a man they claimed was the dancer, slumped forward against a wall, with what appears to be a gunshot wound to the back.

Officers are also investigating alleged links between the dancer and a local drugs lord, according to local TV channel RJTV.

Residents point finger at police

But residents from the favela accuse police for the death, according to local media. They allege Pereira was attempting to run from a gun battle between police and drug traffickers when he scaled a wall to hide, only to be found by police who tortured and killed him, believing he was a trafficker.

The dancer’s mother, Maria de Fátima Silva, also believed her son had been tortured before his death, the G1 news portal quoted her as saying.

Local police chief Gilberto Ribeiro, who is in charge of the investigation into the dancer’s death, was quoted by Agência Brasil news agency on Thursday as saying that there was no evidence Pereira had been beaten, and that abrasions on the body were consistent with the theory that the dancer had fallen from a ledge.

Weapons used by police on the night of the shootout have been taken away for analysis, police confirmed.

Ribeiro said his force had traced Pereira’s movements on the night in question, but could not provide more details as the investigation was ongoing.

Protesters took to the streets on Tuesday evening after the dancer was found dead and one man was killed in the ensuing protest violence after being shot in the head.

The Pavão-Pavãozinho favela is one of around 40 sites to have received a permanent police force, known as a Police Pacification Unit, as the city moves forward with the controversial program which seeks to bring lawless, criminal-ruled shantytowns under the control of the authorities by force.

Police have faced wide criticism for using heavy-handed, shoot-first tactics and some say there is growing evidence the traffickers flushed from the favelas by the program are now regaining control over areas they once ruled.

Pavão-Pavãozinho favela, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Google Earth

The Pavão-Pavãozinho favela (top left) sits on a hillside overlooking Copacabana, in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. Image: Google Earth

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