December 13, 2008 / 8:35 PM / 9 years ago

Coconuts cover Rio beach in protest on violence

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<p>Members of the Rio de Paz (Peace Rio) NGO walk amongst coconuts placed in the sand during a symbolic protest on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro December 13, 2008. Rio de Paz (Peace Rio) NGO placed 16,000 coconuts on the beach to represent the victims of violence killed during the past the two years, a number based on official statistics, organizers said.Bruno Domingos</p>

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A big black cross surrounded by 16,000 coconuts covered parts of Rio de Janeiro's famous Copacabana beach on Saturday to symbolize the homicides that have plagued the state of Rio de Janeiro in recent years.

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"Shame" was written on a banner in four different languages, next to the coconuts laid out at sunrise. The protest lasted until after midday, when families of the victims arrived at the site.

Rio de Janeiro, the beach-side tourist hub, is one of Brazil's most dangerous cities and suffers from frequent confrontations between drug gangs and the police in the city's notorious slums.

"The coconuts represent the 16,000 people that were assassinated in the state of Rio in the past two years. If all the skulls of the people killed were put on the sand, that's what we would see," said Antonio Carlos, founder of Rio de Paz, the non-governmental organization, which organized the protest.

Reporting by Julio Villaverde, writing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa, editing by Vicki Allen

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