Why this story matters:
In 2015, six young men from a troubled neighborhood accused 18 police officers of savagely beating them shooting one of them in the leg with a rubber bullet. The trial of 17 of those officers started this week -- one female officer was not indicted since it was not possible to prove she was in the precinct on that day.
The police officers deny the accusation and claim the young men attempted to "invade" a police station to try to free another black man who was arrested. The prosecutors claim the men had simply entered the police station to ask questions when they were assaulted by the officers, whom they accuse of torturing the six men, with "racial hatred" as their motivation.
Portugal is a country with a troubled colonial history, but the issue is seldom discussed. Organizations like the United Nations and Amnesty International keep stressing that racism remains an issue, but governments and society alike are firmly in denial.
Considering these circumstances, it is not a surprise that records of police brutality against black men are not much exposed or discussed, but they do exist, particularly in the urban peripheries where racial minorities are segregated.
Details from the story:
- Flávio Almada, one of the six black men allegedly assaulted, hopes the trial will "help to break the curtain of silence that covers this topic."
- The police officers' lawyer, Gonçalo Gaspar, claims there are circumstances that help to explain the violence (the alleged invasion) and that the officers "are not racists".
- The trial is expected to end in September.
- A riot police officer who is studying police action in this kind of neighborhood claims there are deeply racist ideas among some of the officers -- "some of them even use neo-Nazi tattoos and symbols."
- Amadora's local prosecutor's office has started 15 inquiries last year regarding police violence. Most of them are against black citizens.
- The national prosecutor and the government both claim they don't have official statistics on police violence.