Brazilians Demand Arrest Over Killing
Associated Press | July 26, 2005
By ALAN CLENDENNING
GONZAGA, Brazil - Hundreds of relatives and friends of a Brazilian shot to death in London after being mistaken for a terrorist marched along the cobblestone streets of his hometown Monday, demanding the arrest of the British police who fired the fatal shots.
Some of the protesters held banners denouncing British police as the real terrorists; other placards were adorned with snapshots of Jean Charles de Menezes, urging British Prime Minister Tony Blair to send his body home so it can be buried
All said Blair's apology did not go far enough.
"Apologies don't help, we want justice," they chanted, stopping briefly to offer a prayer for the 27-year-old electrician who left Brazil to work in Britain so he could return home with enough savings to start a cattle ranch.
Menezes' killing has been the top story on radio and television broadcasts since Sunday, although there has been no large-scale public outcry.
In London, foreign Minister Celso Amorin said he had instructions from president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva "to take firm measures to defend the interests of the family of a Brazilian who died in an absurd manner."
The militant Landless Rural Workers' Movement has scheduled protests Tuesday in front of the British Embassy in Brasilia and the consulate in Rio de Janeiro. The movement said in a statement that Menezes "was assassinated in cold blood, victim of intolerance" and called for the British withdrawal from Iraq.
Gonzaga's mayor, outraged over news Menezes was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder, called the killing an "assassination."
"It's easy for Blair to apologize, but it doesn't mean very much," said Mayor Julio de Souza. "What happened to English justice and England, a place where police patrol unarmed?"
Many were angry that there is still no word on when the body might be shipped back to Gonzaga, a central Brazilian town of 6,000 where young men often head to the United States and Europe to finance a better life back home. Menezes was killed last Friday, and Brazilians traditionally bury their dead no later than 24 hours after a person dies.
"We don't want apologies, he's ours and he should be here," said Maria Jose Carvalho, who has two sons working in the United States.
Gov. Aecio Neves of Minas Gerais, the rural state where the electrician was born, said the government would pay to fly his body back to Brazil for burial.
Some of Menezes' cousins were upset that Blair's apology included a defense of British police, who he said were working under intense pressure to prevent more terrorist attacks.
"His apologies aren't easing our pain," said Arialva Pereira, one of the cousins. "He's not saying anything about punishing the police who did this, it's more like he's supporting them."
The march ended in front of the town hall, where the Brazilian flag hung at half staff in front of town hall and a large black sheet was hung from the second floor as a sign of mourning.
Menezes was killed in a London subway station as police investigated a wave of botched bombings the day before and the deadly transit bombings of July 7.
Witnesses said Menezes was wearing a heavy, padded coat when plainclothes police chased him into a subway car, pinned him to the ground and shot him dead.
While Menezes' relatives said he was working legally in Britain and had no reason to fear police, the British Broadcasting Corp. said Menezes' visa had expired, suggesting a reason for why he ran.
Souza said the root cause of Menezes' death was Blair's decision to back the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. That prompted the wave of terrorist attacks, the mayor said.
"Gonzaga has nothing to do with terrorism and now it's been hit," Souza said. "Jean could have come back here and become a father, but now we'll never have a chance to have him with us again."
Menezes, called "Jim" by English friends, was believed to have been on his way to repair an alarm when he was shot, according to a cousin in London, Alex Pereira.
The killing probably won't stop Gonzaga natives from going abroad, said Regiani Castro, a 25-year-old who started a farm supplies store after working in Massachusetts for five years.
"They'll be scared, but they'll keep on going because that's the only way to guarantee your future here," he said.