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Bruna da Silva (c), the mother of a boy murdered in June in Rio de Janeiro, attends a Mass on July 23, 2018, at the Candelaria Church to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Candelaria massacre, in which police killed eight street children near the…

Brazil recalls massacre of children by cops

Twenty-five years ago, 43 children and teens who regularly spent the night on the steps of the Candelaria church became the victims of an attack by police.

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Brazilians staged assorted events on Monday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Candelaria massacre, which saw police open fire on more than 40 children who were sleeping near a Rio de Janeiro church, killing eight.

In 1993, the Candelaria church had provided shelter for more than 70 people, including children and beggars who were sleeping nearby.

But 43 children and teens who regularly spent the night on the steps of the church became the victims of an attack by police.

The massacre was ostensibly an act of vengeance for the breaking of a window on a police vehicle

The police car was pelted with stones by one of the street children in reprisal for the arrest hours earlier of a glue seller who provided the youngsters with some of their drugs.

In the wee hours of Friday, July 23, several men came to the church and opened fire on the sleeping group of kids.

Eight of the children died - four of them at the scene, two more in a local hospital and two others who were shot dead a few blocks from the church after being encountered by the attackers.

"I had a bad premonition over what had occurred (the vandalism against the police car)," Ivonne Bezerra, a teacher who at the time was helping the street children, told EFE.

"I gave coins to three boys so that they could call me from a public phone if anything happened. About midnight I received the first call and one of those boys told me: Come quickly because the police are killing us," she said.

After a trial lasting more than five years, three of the six police officers charged with the massacre were sentenced to 30 years behind bars and the other three were acquitted for lack of evidence.

Despite the stiff sentences, all of the police involved were released for good behavior in prison long before serving their full sentences.

The ringleader, Marcus Vinicios Borges Emmanuel, left prison in 2012, thanks to a pardon. And though a court later overturned that pardon, the convicted killer remains at large.

Since the massacre, the situation of the street kids has not improved over the past 25 years. In fact, their problems have increased and current calculations are that some 2,000 kids live on Rio's streets, Bezerra said.

"In 1993, the period of Candelaria, 4,800 kids and young people between ages 10-18 were killed. Last year, it was 11,500. It's an ongoing genocide," she said.

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