Portugal’s ethnic minorities complain of being ‘heavily policed’ through pandemic

Ethnic minority business owners in ‘marginalised neighbourhoods’ around Lisbon say they are being treated differently to white people by the police.

Al Jazeera television news has highlighted what it calls “structural inequality” in Portugal exacerbated by the pandemic.

A recent report focuses on businesses that have been closed, while those of white people sometimes even in the same street remain open, “full of people drinking, sitting in groups, playing cards”.

Mamdou Ba, one of the directors of SOS Racismo, “which campaigns against racism and has been outspoken about police violence in Portugal” told Al Jazeera that “radicalised neighbourhoods here have always been policed differently, but Covid has not only made this exception the norm, it has actually bright legal and institutional support for it”.

The station talked also with anthropologist Ana Rita Alves who accused the media of contributing “to the criminalisation of racialised people in the peripheries, transmitting the idea that these are spaces that need to be cleansed and to be ‘civilised’ – as if they were a problem that needs to be fixed”.

Responding to suggestions that the policing is heavier in the suburbs, Alves said: “In my own neighbourhood in central Lisbon, I don’t see the police going around here in riot vans, or wearing riot gear as they go around at night to check if people are out – but that’s what they do in the peripheries.”

“The very most vulnerable people in our society are being transformed into a threat. And the reaction from the public is just – well, that’s ok, because this is a state of emergency isn’t it?” concluded Ba, in a report that essentially gave very little hope that the situation was likely to change any time soon.

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