An image of a teenager with a tattoo on his forehead saying “thief and asshole” took over the social media in Brazil last weekend. The teenager – who was missing for more than a week – was found after his family and friends saw a video in which he was being tortured and tattooed by two men. The torturers, the tattoo artist Maycon Wesley Carvalho dos Reis and his neighbor Ronildo Moreira de Araújo, released the video themselves on WhatsApp, proud of what they have done. If it wasn’t sad enough, not only them but a huge amount of people started sharing the video congratulating the authors for their masterpiece (of horror).
The torturers justified the violence saying the young man was stealing a bicycle, which wasn’t even the case – and as if it was an excuse for such violence. Once the criminal justice in Brazil is very slow to persecute and judge crimes, it is becoming more and more fashionable to support vigilantes who punish the so called criminals.
Brazil has the fourth largest prison population in the world (622.202 people) and 40 out of 100 prisoners are still waiting to be judged. The problem in Brazil is not putting people in jail – and Brazil is quite good at that – but judging people fairly and not just incarcerating the most vulnerable in our society for the sake of getting rid of them off the streets. Once again the vigilantes are punishing the easiest targets – as pick pocketers or drug users – who are already the main targets of police repression.
Unfortunately Brazil does not suffer from a lack of violence but from its trivialization. As in a “Black Mirror” episode, the internet judged that it was fair for two adult men to take a young guy suffering from mental problems, tide him to a chair and tattoo his forehead because he supposedly tried to steal a bicycle.
On the other hand, there are still many people that were shocked with the news. The Afroguerrilha collective created a crowdfunding to raise R$ 15,000 ( around 5 thousand euros) to pay for the removal of the tattoo, legal fees and also for psychological treatment of the teenager. The stipulated amount has been reached, even after boycotts promoted by the supporters of the vigilantes – mainly right wing skinheads.
The City Hall of São Bernardo do Campo, a city near Sao Paulo where the crime took place, said that they will take care of the medical and surgical procedure to remove the adolescent’s tattoo.