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March 13, 2014
March 13, 2014

Portugal: Police violence – When the bells ring

Author: Lúcia Gomes Translator: Gustavo Roxo
Source: Manifesto 74  Category: Letters from home
This article is also available in: elpt-pt
Portugal: Police violence – When the bells ring

Let’s call him Duarte. He lives in a poor neighbourhood in Lisbon. Duarte has been unemployed for several years now. He is 20 years old and doesn’t receive any benefits or social welfare whatsoever. His mother works seven days a week, cleaning houses, from one end of the city to another. He has a little sister that he loves dearly. His father, I don’t remember what he does. His mother tells me that every week there are raids in the neighbourhood. A lot of times he is late because the police goes inside the buildings and don’t let people leave their homes. Growing up, Duarte always repeated to his parents “the police and justice are here to protect us”. Friday night, he went out with friends to Bairro Alto. They had a few drinks and one of them made a move on a girl.

Let’s call her Marta. She was a student in a school of arts. She was 16 years old. She is from a youth group of a political party. Politically active, she was used to seeing a number of police cars around her high school. They used to say because it’s an “artist” school students are all full of themselves.

Let’s call him Pedro. Pedro was going to protests all the time. One day he didn’t come home to his parents who were already back from the same protest. They called him but his phone was off.

So what?

Pedro was missing after the protest. Already, when returning home, near the train station, he saw one line of riot police charging at everyone in the area. They hit his legs with a baton and he fell. They ripped his bag off his shoulders and cuffed him with tire-up that made cuts on his wrists. They took everything he had on him.He was inside a van for almost an hour not knowing where he was going. They put him in a cell for 2 people. There were 5. And another 5 in the next cell and so on. Nobody could contact their parents (all of them were very young, one was a minor). Nobody could contact a lawyer. They were detained for 4 hours without anyone knowing where they were. Pedro’s father called me in panic. Arriving at the location where they were detained, the police threatened to arrest me for insisting that they had a right to see a lawyer. It was dawn. His parents and his grandfather arrived. Many years may pass but I will never forget the face of each one of them: their son was missing. Nobody knew what had happened to him. His grandfather, who was a political prisoner during fascism, could not believe what had happened.

Marta was a minor. She painted a wall in front of her school with words of resistance. She was with 5 friends. Two police vans and two smaller cars arrived. They started to yell at them and threw them in the cars. When they arrived at the police station, Marta and her friends -just the girls- were put in different cells. Everything was taken from them and they weren’t allowed to contact anyone. They were undressed, insulted, searched. Why? They were looking for drugs. They never searched their bags… They were held for over 3 hours. Her parents were called after all this. On the day of her trial, her mother told me she couldn’t believe what was happening. I remember Marta threw up and she was scared.

Duarte. Duarte was taken to the police station. “Death station”, some call it. He was put in a room. Separated from his friends. Undressed. They made him lay on the floor face down. They started to kick him as they insulted him. They told him to open his legs to kick his thighs. He was trying to explain he hadn’t done anything.They kept beating him. 3, 4, 5, 6 o’clock in the morning. They beat him without stop. Duarte asked not to be beaten in the face. At least that they didn’t. They beat Duarte and all his friends. His mother kept calling him all morning. His phone was off. He arrived home at 11h30 in the morning. He didn’t move anymore during the day. Monday he went to the hospital. His arms are swollen and hurt. He has several fractures on his back. He can’t sleep because he can’t find a position. He’s legs are all stomped on. His mother can’t even look at him. Duarte can’t afford a lawyer or pay the court fees so he has to go to social security (where he has over 100 people before him) to request judicial support. He already asked for the papers the bureaucracy requires. He borrowed a camera to photograph his injuries. His mother´s heart is jumping. She speaks with her friends who tell her that the police station, that of Bairro Alto, it’s like that – it’s like that!!! Duarte told his mother, “I grew up saying to you that police and courts exist for our protection”.

The complaints filed against Marta and Pedro to the National Board of PSP (Public Security Police) were dismissed. The complaints to the General Republic Prosecutor were dismissed (worst, they resulted in a hardening of the procedures). In the case of Marta, there was an officer who got suspended in a disciplinary procedure by the General Inspection. But it’s not known which officer and if he even was involved in the arrests. But it was not the one who undressed or insulted her.

All the names are fictitious. All stories are accurate reports. Duarte was tortured on the 8th of March of 2014. He still can’t move. And he knows he cannot go to Bairro Alto, especially after pressing charges because he may not survive. As he thought maybe he wouldn’t survive during the hours where they were beating him, kicking him, pulling his hairs and insulting him. 2014.

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