A picture of a police officer spraying a little girl with pepper spray is being spread through various social media sites. Is the photograph real or fake?
The Photo is Real, but the Social Media Spin is Misleading
The photo, which is real, is currently being spread on social media with the implication that the event recently occurred within the United States and the officer has faced no consequences for his actions. However, the picture is actually from a March 2011 protest in the South American country of Brazil in the city of Niterói. Originally, the image appeared along with an article in Brazil’s O Globo (The Globe) which describes the protest. According to the article, the public protest consisted of approximately 400 people who demonstrated in front of Niterói’s City Hall regarding five months of unpaid government aid which was promised in response to flooding and a series of massive landslides in 2010 that killed over 200 people and left several thousand homeless.
Although the photograph appears to depict peaceful demonstrators, The Globe article describes the atmosphere of the protest as tense. 80 military police officers were dispatched when the protesters refused to move, and it appears that a number of people (mostly elderly and children according to the article) were sprayed with pepper spray.
Followup Globe Articles Detail Investigation of Abuses
Several days after the initial article, a followup article appeared in The Globe which reported that Rio de Janeiro’s Public Ministry was investigating military police abuses at the protest. In June of 2011, yet another article appeared in The Globe covering the incident. In this second followup article, the state prosecutor criticized police brutality during the protest, and named two offending military police officers who faced prosecution. The two officers, Captain Bruno Schorch and D’Angelo de Matos Pinel, faced up to six months in prison and the loss of their positions. The article goes on to say that the two men had been suspended from their duties, and it was discovered that Captain Schorch had previously been found guilty of an alleged double homicide.
There seems to be some confusion in regards to what happened next and if the offending officers ever really did face prosecution. Nevertheless, the facts remain that the photograph depicting this episode occurred in 2011 within the country of Brazil in South America, and the offenders were publicly identified and denounced for their actions.
The picture currently circulating through social media of a police officer spraying a little girl with pepper spray is real. However, the incident did not occur recently within the United States. Events shown in the photograph actually took place in the South American country of Brazil during a public protest in 2011. Two military police officers were publicly identified in relation to the abuses, and they faced investigation/prosecution by the Public Ministry and state prosecutor of Rio de Janeiro.