May 2006. The evening was drawing to a close in the neighborhood of Parque Bristol, in the southside of the city of São Paulo, when the two brothers Edivaldo and Eduardo were chatting to their friends Fábio, Fernando and Israel outside their house. Both the capital and other cities in the state of São Paulo were experiencing a rapid escalation of violence, triggered by a series of attacks by the criminal gang known as PCC (First Capital Command) on public buildings and security forces, followed by reprisals by the police and death squads.
The five young men from Parque Bristol were suddenly thrust into the middle of this war. They were 21 to 25 years old. From a moving car, masked men opened fire against the group of friends, killing three, Edivaldo, Eduardo and Israel. Their names were added to the long list of civilians, mostly men (96%) younger than 35 years old (80%) with no criminal record, who were killed between May 12 and 21 that year in the state of São Paulo.
According to research conducted by the Laboratory for the Analysis of Violence of the Rio de Janeiro State University at the request of Conectas, at least 505 civilians were killed over the course of those 10 days. The number of dead government agents totaled 59.
Nine years after what have become known as the Crimes of May, families are still waiting for justice. Like so many other inquiries opened at the time, the case of Edivaldo, Eduardo and Israel was quickly shelved without the perpetrators being identified. In a sign of complicity given the lack of effort by the police to find the killers, the Prosecution Service requested that the case be shelved in November 2008.
On account of the inaction by the São Paulo state justice system, the case was referred to the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the OAS), where it has been pending since 2009. The victims are also awaiting a response from the Office of the Attorney General on the request for the federalization of the investigation made by Conectas in the same year.
“The Parque Bristol massacre contains all the symbolic elements of the Crimes of May of 2006: in response to attacks mounted by a criminal gang, the state ignored the law and staged a massacre of the most vulnerable population from the poor urban outskirts,” explained Marcos Fuchs, associate director of Conectas.
According to the report of the Special Commission on the Crimes of May, which was created by the now-defunct Council for the Defense of the Rights of the Human Person, “nearly all the police inquiries involving the death of civilians were shelved by the justice system at the request of the Public Prosecutor’s Office”. The Commission found that “there was a selective investigation, in which the families of the civilian victims were not entitled to know the real circumstances, the perpetrators or the motivations for the deaths of their loved ones”. The São Paulo Public Defender’s Office reached the same conclusion: in a document submitted to the IACHR, the Office stated that all the police inquiries related to the Crimes of May had been shelved by 2008 without identifying the culprits. Again according to the Public Defender’s Office, eight civil cases for moral and material damages were filed against the state. None of them received a definitive final judgement.
“The bodies of the justice system – in particular, the São Paulo Public Prosecutor’s Office – failed in their role to monitor state action and this omission has contributed to the perpetuation of the violations. Nine years after the events, police violence persists in São Paulo as an unmistakable consequence of this major error,” added Fuchs.
Data released by the São Paulo Public Security Department confirm this statement. In the first quarter of 2015, the Military Police was responsible for the death of 185 people in alleged confrontations – an average of 2.05 victims per day. It is the highest rate of killings by police since 2003.
“The violence today is a legacy of May 2006. The modus operandi is the same: we have a police force that kills and does not investigate, and a justice system that legitimizes impunity,” said Débora Silva, founder of the Mothers of May Movement. “The Crimes of May, in this sense, were successful. It’s why the police still have a green light to kill. This legacy needs to be eliminated.”
Week of mobilization
The ongoing violence against the young black population from the poor urban outskirts and the lack of justice for the families of the victims of the Crimes of May will be the target of a demonstration on Friday, May 15, in the Praça da Sé public square in downtown São Paulo. The protest is being organized by the Mothers of May Movement, founded by mothers of the young people killed by the police in 2006.
Click here to visit the event page on Facebook.
“On May 15, 2006, a curfew was declared by the state government so no one could be an eye witness to what was happening in the outskirts,” explained Débora Silva. “Now, nine years later, we want to raise awareness among the population that impunity still reigns to this day and show that the state has abandoned the mothers of the victims. We are demanding that this error be recognized. This is why we are going to rally organizations and individuals who are committed to the most fundamental right there is, which is the right to life.”