Marielle Franco, a councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was murdered in a drive-by shooting, on the night of March 14, 2018. Two former police officers were arrested this Tuesday, only two days before the 1-year anniversary of her death, in connection with her apparently political assassination.
Franco was a black and LGBTQ-rights activist in Rio de Janeiro. The councilor and her driver Anderson Pedro Gomes were shot in her car after leaving a back women’s rights and empowerment event. Franco’s press secretary, Fernanda Chaves, was also in the car but she survived the attack.
This Thursday, Ronnie Lessa and Elcio Vieira de Queiroz, former military police officers, were accused of being involved in the crime. In a press release, prosecutors said that Lessa fired the shots, shooting against Franco’s car at least nine times, while Queiroz drove. “It is undisputed that Marielle Francisco da Silva was summarily executed because of her political actions in defense of the causes she defended”, the release said. It added that the crime was planned for three months before the night of the murder.
A symbol of resistance against minorities rights violations in the city, Marielle Franco was a popular councilwoman for the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). At the time of her death, she was the only black woman in Rio’s city council from a total of 51 members. Born and raised in one of the biggest slums in Rio de Janeiro, Favela da Maré, the political career of the 38-years old Franco was defined by advocacy for minority rights – minorities to which she belonged, being an afro-Brazilian, gay, single mother from a low-income family.
In 2016, Marielle was elected to Rio de Janeiro’s city council. It was her first time as a candidate, and she ended being the 5th most voted councilor in that year’s election. In her short mandate, she was known for speaking out against abuses by police and the military forces occupying the city. A day before her murder, Marielle used Twitter to protest against the death of yet another young man in the slums of Rio, who was shot by the police when returning home after church. Her outspoken stance led many supporters to believe her murder was politically motivated.
In the days following her death, tens of thousands of people throughout Brazil gathered in the streets to protest and mourn. Other major cities around the world held protests as well, such as Buenos Aires, Dublin, New York and Barcelona. Brazilians also took to social media, reaching first place in global trending topics on Twitter the day after Franco’s murder.
A full year after the drive-by shooting, Marielle’s supporters and human-rights activists gathered once more in the streets. Demonstrations took place in several cities in Brazil and around the world. Earlier this year, during Carnival parade, two of the main samba schools in Rio de Janeiro paid tribute to Franco. Her name could also be heard and read in marches celebrating International Women’s Day. With signs asking “Who ordered Marielle’s murder”, people remind the world that they have not forgotten.