Murder of Brazilian politician who fought for women and the poor sparks protests

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    Crowds gathered to mourn a black woman who was hailed as a revolutionary leader in the Brazilian city of Rio after she and her driver were targeted and killed in a drive-by shooting.

    Rio city councilor, Marielle Franco, rose to become the voice of the people and admired largely by the underclass in a city plagued with crime, gangs and wide-spread drug activity, the Guardian reports.

    The Associated Press reports that Franco and her driver Marielle Franco were gunned down when nine bullets pierced their vehicle and hit them both. A press officer, in the back seat was hit and injured but survived the brutal attack.

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    Police have launched a full investigation.

    By Thursday news spread of the beloved politician’s untimely death and crowds gathered – and many cried – outside of Rio de Janeiro’s council chamber. Swarms of people chanted “not one step backwards” in honor of Franco as her body lay in a coffin inside the chamber.

    “I feel lost, without hope,” she said. “It is a very tough blow for anyone who fights for justice, for freedom, for equality,” said Camila Pontes, 30, a communications officer.

    As a black, gay politician she fought for human rights and championed many causes for the city’s poorest communities.

    Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned the killings.

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    Franco won the fifth-highest vote count among council members when she was elected in 2016. She was an outspoken advocate and worked closely in the favelas – the poorest communities – doing social work. She was in her first term and a member of the leftist party. Franco was also an expert on police violence and cautioned officers about aggressive police tactics when searching for residents in poor communities.

     “She was a symbol of the politics we believe in,” said communications student Jefferson Barbosa, 21, who worked with Franco at the state legislature.

    “I have never been so scared,” he said. “People are shocked with what happened. They did this to Mari, one of the most popular lawmakers in Rio. What will stop them doing this to others?”

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