200-strong demonstration against recent attacks on Brazilian migrants in Limerick

Crowds turned out on Bedford Row today to stand up against recent attacks on Brazilian men in the city. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

A UNIFIED 200 marched through the main thoroughfare in Limerick City today (Sunday April 21) to hit home one simple message – racism and racist attacks have no place on Shannonside.

Demonstrators gathered under an uncharacteristically warm Limerick sun in response to a number of seemingly racially-motivated attacks on Brazilian men in the city in recent days.

On Saturday April 13, Roberto Leonardo Gonçalves Jnr and his brother Leonardo, from Rio Janeiro, were approached by a man who asked them where they are from. When they responded “we are from Brazil”, the man produced a bat and attacked them.

The attack left 33-year-old Roberto with six stitches and Leonardo’s e-scooter broken.

The same weekend, two other Brazilian men, Frederico de Lima Costa (34) and Mateus Gonzalez Serafim (21), were filmed while being assaulted by a man – believed to be unconnected to Roberto’s attacker – on Cruises Street and Little Catherine Street in the city. The video, captioned “#prank”, was circulated widely online.

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In a show of solidarity against the violent attacks, up to 200 people turned out on Bedford Row in Limerick City – from every corner of the city and the world, from Deliveroo drivers to local councillors – chanting “hey hey, ho ho, xenophobia has to go”.

‘Our community needed this protest’

One week on from his terrifying attack, Roberto says that “I’m okay, I just need time to recover”.

Roberto’s stitches are inflamed, he says, but his biggest issue since the attack is the fear he now feels leaving the house.

“I’m scared. Today is only my third day leaving my home. It’s very scary for me to be outside, I need to look around everywhere,” he told the Limerick Post.

Despite his fear, he said that he was happy and grateful that so many turned out in solidarity with him.

“I believe our community here needed this protest after what happened. I’m happy that everyone is here today.”

Roberto Leonardo Gonçalves Jnr says he is still scared to leave the house after the violent attack. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

Roberto told the Limerick Post that his family back in Rio de Janeiro are still scared for him.

“My father told me to come home now, as soon as possible,” he said, adding that “I haven’t told my mother yet because she has a heart problem and I don’t want to worry her”.

The attacks have led to great concern amongst the South American community in Limerick, with some warning “don’t stop to talk to anyone” and “don’t say or lie” if someone asks where they’re from.

‘We are not here to steal jobs. We are not here as invaders.’

To cheers and applause, Tom Neves, a former English teacher and a member of Limerick’s large Brazilian community, told the gathered crowd that Brazilian people “represent 20 per cent of the workforce in Ireland. We are not here to steal jobs. We are not here as invaders. We are here to help. We deserve respect. We deserve to be treated equally.”

“This violence is not affecting only the Brazilian community. We have seen your support in comments online, in news outlets, we have seen you say that you have also suffered the same violence – so this has not affected only Brazilians. This has affected all foreigners.

“What we ask from you, the Irish people who have embraced us and loved us all the way, is that you stand with us today, because we know that you have been through the same hardship that we have been through.”

Mr Neves said that each Brazilian student who comes to Ireland to study English has to spend “at least €8,000 to be here. These funds are invested in the Irish economy. For every 1,000 Brazilians that come to Ireland, they inject €8million.”

Deliveroo driver Cleber Silva at today’s demonstration. Photo: Adam Leahy.

“We are not here on the dole. We are not here receiving benefits,” he said.

“We don’t want to wait for another person to be hit or maybe killed, because that’s what happened in Dublin.

“We don’t want this to happen in Limerick. Limerick has been a place of peace and we want to continue that. What we are asking for here is for protection from An Garda Síochána. That’s all we are asking.”

‘Never say I’m from Brazil.’

Pat Reddan, general manager of the Maldron Hotel in Limerick, works with one of the other men who were victim to last weekend’s attacks, Frederico de Lima Costa. He told the Limerick Post that while Mr de Lima Costa is “doing better” in the days since the footage of his attack was posted online, he’s still “very, very nervous”.

“We’re trying to look after him as best we can. We’re getting him taxis to and from work because he doesn’t want to be out by himself. It’s just absolutely shocking that this is happening.”

People of all backgrounds turned out for the demonstration. Photo: Adam Leahy.

Gardaí say that no arrests have been made in connection with any of last weekend’s attacks, but that reports have been received and “investigations are ongoing”.

When asked by the Limerick Post if he had any message for the migrant community in Limerick, Roberto said: “Be careful when you’re walking at night. Don’t talk to anyone you don’t know. If someone asks you where you’re from, never say ‘I’m from Brazil’.”

“Never say ‘I’m from Brazil’,” he repeated.