Death of black man beaten by supermarket security guards sparks violent protests at Brazil’s Carrefour stores

The death of a black man beaten by white security guards at a supermarket in Brazil has sparked protests as the country celebrated Black Consciousness Day on Friday.

The military police in Rio Grande do Sul state said the man had threatened a female worker at the supermarket, who called security.

A video of Thursday night’s incident in the southern city of Porto Alegre captured on a witness’ mobile phone was broadcast on social networks and Brazilian media.

The short video clip showed one guard restraining 40-year-old welder Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas just outside the doors of a Carrefour supermarket while the other pummelled him with repeated blows to the face.

A store employee stood to the side filming. Other clips, shot after, showed a guard kneeling on Mr Freitas’ back.

He lost consciousness during the assault and died on the spot as medics tried to revive him.

A friend of the victim who witnessed the beating told G1 news that as the security guards were beating him, Mr Freitas "screamed that he could not breathe", a scene reminiscent of the US death of George Floyd, a black man who died of asphyxiation as a white police officer kneeled on his neck in Minneapolis in May, a killing that sparked massive protests across the United States.

Both the supermarket security guards were arrested. One of them was identified as a member of the military police who worked part-time at the supermarket.

In a statement, Carrefour’s Brazilian subsidiary deplored the "brutal death" of Mr Freitas and promised to take "appropriate measures to hold accountable those involved in this criminal case".

Carrefour said it would cut ties with the security company that employed the guards.

In a series of tweets in Portuguese, the French head of Carrefour, Alexandre Bompard, expressed his condolences and said that the images posted on social media were "unacceptable".

"Internal measures have immediately been implemented by the Carrefour Group Brazil, principally on the question of security company contracts. These measures are insufficient. My values, and the values of Carrefour, do not allow for racism and violence," he wrote, calling for a complete review of employee training, diversity and intolerance.

Credit: Andre Penner/AP

As the video of the supermarket attack went viral, around 1,000 protesters in Sao Paulo marched to a branch of the French-owned Carrefour supermarket chain and stoned the glass storefront before storming the premises, trashing and burning goods, according to an AFP photographer on the scene.

Dozens of protesters entered a Carrefour in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, on Friday morning, chanting "Black lives matter!" One held a sign reading: "Don’t shop at Carrefour. You could die."

Jonata Anjo protests at a Carrefour supermarket in the Barra da Tijuca neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro

Credit: Antonio Lacerda/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Inside another Carrefour in Rio de Janeiro, protesters shouted "Carrefour Killer" as a black man lay still atop the conveyor belt of a checkout. They forced the store’s closure.

"Carrefour’s hands are dirty with black blood," read one banner held up by demonstrators.

Police in Porto Alegre used tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse a protest that had formed in front of the supermarket where the death occurred, according to local television.

Demonstrators start a fire during a protest at the entrance of a Carrefour supermarket