Highlights

  • Protests in Brazil after the death of Black man
  • Use of force against man caught on camera
  • The man died of asphyxiation at the back of a police vehicle

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Brazil erupts in protest after death of man gassed by police

Demonstrators took to the streets of Sao Paulo in Brazil Friday to protest after the death of a Black man at the hands of the police

Demonstrators took to the streets of Sao Paulo in Brazil Friday to protest after a video released on social media showed the asphyxiation death of a Black man being held by two officers of Federal Highway Police inside an SUV's smoke-filled trunk.

Images of the police stop Tuesday in Umbauba, in the northeastern state of Sergipe, appear to show the officers forcibly keeping Genivaldo de Jesus Santos, 38, in the back of their police vehicle as a dense cloud of white smoke, which appears to be tear gas, emerges from the SUV.

The man can be heard screaming and his legs, which stick out of the SUV, kick for a time, until they eventually stop moving. The officers seem undisturbed by onlookers surrounding them.

Social media erupted over the images, and dozens of people gathered to protest in Umbauba, where they blocked a road and burned tires.

In Sao Paulo demonstrators gathered in front of the Federal Highway Police headquarters to protest on Friday.

Douglas Belchior, activist from the Black movement, compared the Federal Highway Police to the Nazi SS paramilitary force.

"This is just a continuation of a police practice that we know very well how it works. They enter in communities, favelas and Black territories, killing people," said the Black movement activist Douglas Belchior.

In a statement, the Federal Highway Police said the man had displayed aggressive behavior and was "actively resisting" the officers who pulled him over.

The statement said the agents immobilized him and then used "instruments of lesser offensive potential" to contain him.

The statement says Santos fell ill as he was being transported to a police precinct and was taken to a hospital, where his death was confirmed.

A preliminary autopsy from the state's forensic institute concluded the man died of respiratory failure due to "mechanical asphyxia."

A statement from the Independent Brazilian Public Security Forum said the incident showed "lack of preparedness" from the police on "basic procedures."

President Jair Bolsonaro said he would find out from the Federal Highway Police what happened. He also mentioned a separate incident two weeks ago when a man shot two on-duty highway officers.

The Federal Police opened an investigation. The forensic institute must submit its final, more in-depth report to the Federal Police within 10 days.

The incident comes just days after officers of the highway police participated in an operation in Rio de Janeiro that left more than 20 people dead.

Police have said they had no choice but to use lethal force, but accounts from residents published in local media have raised doubts on that claim.

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