Marielle Franco, Presente!

Marielle Franco

Brazilian political activist Marielle Franco, 38, died in downtown Rio de Janeiro on March 14 in what officials have deemed a political assassination. She had just left an evening event, “Young Black Women Who Are Changing Power Structures.” She was killed, along with her driver, Anderson Gomes, by assailants who shot with military precision through her car’s darkened windows. The ammunition used has been traced to batches sold to the federal police. (, March 16)

Franco, a Rio city councilwoman, was a fierce critic of the military occupation of the city ordered by President Michel Temer. She had just been appointed to lead a commission investigating its possible abuses. For years, she had led campaigns against police violence targeting Rio’s poor Black residents. Not long before her assassination, she went to the Acari favela, a poor neighborhood, to denounce recent murders there by the notorious 41st Battalion of police, which has killed as many as 430 people in the last five years. (, March  17)

A woman of African descent, she was born in one of the largest favelas, the Maré complex. She was also a lesbian, a mother and a member of the LGBTQ community and the left Party of Socialism and Liberty (PSOL). (Intercept Brasil,

On March 15, thousands gathered in front of Rio’s City Hall where, according to Intercept Brasil, one speaker exhorted: “She always said, ‘Onwards, Black women! When the lives of Black women matter, then the world will be transformed.’” The crowds then marched and chanted: “I say no! No to military intervention! For Marielle!”

Thousands also gathered at the World Social Forum in the Brazilian city of Salvador da Bahia. In grief and furious anger at the loss of this beacon of hope, the crowd chanted over and over: “Racistas! Fascistas! Não passarão!” [“They will not pass!”] (

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