Black feminist activist and politician assassinated in Rio de Janeiro


On 14th March 2018, well-known Rio de Janeiro City Councillor Marielle Franco was killed in a drive-by shooting. According to reports, armed men approached her car and opened fire, shooting nine times at Marielle and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, who also died.

Franco, a black activist and feminist, had been elected in 2016 as councillor for the left-wing Socialism and Freedom Party and presided over the women's commission. She grew up in Maré, a favela complex in the north of the city, and was an outspoken critic of police violence and of the army being deployed into poor neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro. She led a city council committee that monitored the Brazilian government’s “federal intervention” which puts the military in charge of policing in Rio state.

Two days before her murder, Franco had denounced the police’s role in the killing of a young black man named Matheus Melo, who was shot dead after leaving an evangelical church service in the Jacarezinho favela. "Another killing of a youth which could end up on the Military Police tally. Matheus Melo was leaving the church. How many more will have to die before this war ends?" she asked on Twitter.

Franco was a significant leader in the feminist, social justice and anti-racism movements. Her murder has unleashed widespread anger across Brazil and around the world. Thousands of people took the streets in Rio de Janeiro and other cities across Brazil to mourn her death and demand justice. Demonstrations also took place in Portugal, the United States, France and Germany, among others. The message was clear: " Marielle may have been killed, but she was not silenced".

An open letter from international activists, writers, journalists, filmmakers, politicians and actors has called for an investigation into her murder by an independent commission. On 20th March, 102 local and international organisations issued a joint oral statement at the 37th Regular Session of United Nations Human Rights Council. In addition, the feminist movement in the region issued a statement condemning the "extrajudicial execution of Marielle". 

Ten UN special rapporteurs stated that "her murder is alarming and had the clear objective of intimidating all those who fight for human rights and the rule of law in Brazil".

Her murder has increased attention on the dangers faced by activists and critical voices in Brazil. Since 2014, 24 community leaders and activists have been murdered in different parts of the country.

Peaceful Assembly

On 14th March 2018, a teachers' demonstration was repressed outside Sao Paulo´s City Council. Teachers were protesting a bill on changes to social security for local civil servants. According to reports, some protesters who went inside were physically attacked by security forces and those outside the building faced tear gas and rubber bullets from the police. Following the incident, Artigo 19 issued a statement condemning the police's disproportionate use of force.


On 20th March 2018, journalists and radio broadcasters at Empresa Brasileira de Comunicação (Brazil Communication Company or EBC), a federal public agency, protested over the company managers' directive to reduce coverage of the Marielle Franco's murder.

On 16th March, according to Metropoles, one of EBC's managers sent an email to the company's journalists requesting that they "reduce material about the death of councilor Marielle Franco", alluding that the coverage was in some way tied to Franco's political party affiliation. In addition, on 19th March the executive manager of Agência Brazil asked that the demonstrations over her death not be reported on as they were, according to the manager, "repetitive and tiring".