Brazilians mark Marielle Franco murder a year on

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


Brazilians marked the first anniversary of the murder of Rio councillor Marielle Franco on Thursday with flowers, candles and protest banners, just days after the arrest of two police officers suspected of killing her.

Dozens of people gathered at dawn at the crossroads where she was killed in the center of Rio. Many sang songs and hung up posters demanding answers about her murder.

"Marielle's murder for us, black women of this country, represents a profound process of resuming our path, of rescuing our identity and of resisting, because we know that the policies of femicide, of genocide of black youth, is a common practice," said actress Silvia de Mendonca who took part in the event.

Franco, 38, grew up in a slum and went on to become a charismatic defender of the poor and the LGBT community, and an outspoken critic of police brutality.

She was slain in a drive-by shooting along with her driver, Anderson Gomes, in downtown Rio de Janeiro on the evening of March 14, 2018.

The steps outside Rio's municipal building where she worked were adorned with sunflowers in Franco's honor, and several women dressed in white and walking on stilts carried a banner with the legend "Marielle Giant".

A memorial mass was celebrated in Rio's landmark Candelaria church attended by her parents, family and friends.

In the capital Brasilia, a group of women symbolically renamed one of the city's bridges the "Marielle Franco Bridge" instead of the Artur Costa e Silva bridge, named after a dictatorship-era president.

A sergeant in the military police, Ronnie Lessa, 48, was taken into custody on suspicion of being the shooter.

Elcio Vieira de Queiroz, 46, who had been sacked from the military police, also was arrested.

Police said they had yet to determine whether the suspects acted on their own or on the orders of higher-ups.

Until the arrests last week, seemingly no progress had been made into the homicide investigation in almost a year.