Thousands of protesters clashed with police in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on Thursday ahead of the first World Cup match, but the unrest largely died down before the opening ceremonies took centre stage.
More than 300 demonstrators gathered along a main highway leading to the stadium in Sao Paulo. Some tried to block traffic, but police fired canisters of teargas and used stun grenades, preventing the protesters from blocking access to the arena.
A few protesters suffered injuries after being hit by rubber bullets, while others were seen choking after inhaling teargas. An Associated Press photographer was injured in the leg after a stun grenade exploded near him. CNN reported on its website that two of its journalists were also injured.
A group of less than 100 protesters gathered near a subway stop about eight miles (13 kilometres) west of the stadium but no protests were reported near the arena itself.
“I’m totally against the Cup,” said protester Tameres Mota, a university student at the Sao Paulo demonstration. “We’re in a country where the money doesn’t go to the community, and meanwhile we see all these millions spent on stadiums.”
About 300 protesters gathered in central Rio de Janeiro in another demonstration against the World Cup. Police started using teargas and took a few protesters into custody as marchers took to the streets to denounce the lavish public spending on a onetime sports tournament in a nation with profound social needs.
Also present were adherents to “Black Bloc” anarchist protest tactics, a violent form of demonstration and vandalism that emerged in the 1980s in West Germany and which helped shut down the 1999 World Trade Summit in Seattle.
Demonstrations in recent months have paled in comparison those last year, when a million people took to the streets on a single night airing laments including the sorry state of Brazil’s public services despite the heavy tax burden its citizens endure. Those protests were largely spontaneous and no single group organised them.
David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia, said the recent protests are smaller because they are “very specific in their aims, so they are quite easy for the police to control”.
Because the recent protests have been organised by established groups, there are leaders with whom the government can negotiate, Fleischer noted.
He said that federal officials recently convinced a large activist group of homeless workers not to demonstrate during the Cup.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2014-06-12