Brazil’s Foreign Ministry apologizes to Canada, Gabon, and Burkina Faso after police searched diplomats’ Black teens at gunpoint, sparking outrage and calls for justice.

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

News Americas, New York, NY, July 8, 2024: Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued an apology to the embassies of Canada, Gabon, and Burkina Faso after three Black teenagers, children of diplomats from these countries, were searched at gunpoint by police officers in Rio de Janeiro, the UK Guardian reported.

FLASHBACK – A protester holds a sign reading “I dont want to be the next” during the so-called “Jornada Nacional de Luta Pelas Vidas Negras” (National Day of Struggle for Black Lives) calling for an end to police violence against Brazilian black communities, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on August 24, 2023. The act, organized by more than 250 Brazilian Black Movements, was called due to recent episodes of police violence and murders of black people in Brazil, including a 13- year old shot dead in an operation in Cidade de Deus shantytown earlier this month. (Photo by DANIEL RAMALHO/AFP via Getty Images)

The incident came to light when the mother of a Brazilian boy in the group shared a security camera video online, sparking outrage and highlighting the frequent discrimination Black youths face in Rio. The three diplomats’ children were in Rio for a holiday with their white Brazilian friend, celebrating the end of the school year.

On Wednesday evening, July 3rd, as they returned from the beach and approached a building in the affluent Ipanema neighborhood, a military police patrol car stopped them. Two officers ordered the boys to face the wall and searched them at gunpoint. Rhaiana Rondon, the mother of one of the Brazilian boys, noted that the Black teens were treated more harshly than her white son.

“The officer guided my son much more gently because he is white, while the three Black youths had guns pointed at their heads,” Rondon said. She added that the police demanded the Black teens expose themselves to check for hidden drugs.

The teenagers’ statements to a state parliament committee confirmed the racist nature of the search. One boy recounted being warned by the police not to walk around, or they would be searched again.

Julie-Pascale Moudoute-Bell, wife of the Gabonese ambassador, expressed her indignation: “The police are there to protect. How could they point guns at the heads of 13-year-old boys? We trust in the Brazilian justice system and we want justice.”

The foreign ministry in Brasília extended a formal apology to the ambassadors on Friday and urged the Rio state government to investigate and hold the officers accountable.

Amnesty International Brazil’s executive director, Jurema Werneck, condemned the incident as racist, noting that such occurrences are common in Brazil’s Black and poor communities. She highlighted that in 2022, 87% of the over 1,300 people killed by police in Rio were Black, despite Afro-Brazilians making up 58% of the population.

Rio’s military police announced that body camera footage from the officers would be reviewed for any misconduct. The civil police’s tourist assistance and racial crimes units are also investigating the case.

Rondon reported that the teenagers are traumatized, now fearful of police sirens and patrol cars. Reflecting on the guidance she gave her son before the trip, she remarked, “I warned him to be careful with his phone on the street, not to leave his backpack on the beach chair. But I never imagined that the police would be the biggest threat.”

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