Rio favela residents march in memory of slain activist


Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

About 2,000 people marched through the Mare favela in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday in memory of human rights activist Marielle Franco, who was gunned down in an apparent assassination.

The march was the latest in a string of rallies expressing defiance and sorrow at Wednesday's slaying in the center of Rio.

"Marielle's voice will not be silenced," a march leader shouted through a megaphone.

As a black woman from the Mare herself, Franco, 38, stunned many when she was elected to a city council seat in 2016. She won fame as a rights activist, particularly for highlighting police brutality in the impoverished, sometimes lawless favela districts.

Some at Sunday's march considered her killing -- four gunshots to the head in a seemingly well-planned hit -- an attempt to silence criticism of the security forces. Her driver was also killed.

Marcelo Freixo, a Rio state legislator from the small, leftist PSOL party to which Franco also belonged, called her killing "revenge and a message."

"They wanted to make people afraid, but what will happen is the opposite," said PSOL congressman Glauber Braga at the march. "Courage will spread through Brazil."

Rosilene Almeida da Silva, a biology professor attending the protest, said activists would "remain mobilized."

"Marielle spoke for the oppressed," she said.

Tensions are high in Rio over soaring crime and constant clashes between police and narco gangs, including an incident Friday in which stray bullets killed a toddler and two other bystanders.

A month ago, President Michel Temer ordered the army to take charge of Rio's security, but despite the radical move, there has been little evidence that the situation is coming under greater control.

In the latest violence, a policeman killed an assailant during an attempted carjacking, G1 news site reported. The officer's daughter, who was also in the car, was wounded, the report said.

Last year, 134 Rio state police officers were killed.