June 12, 2014 2:35 pm

Police, World Cup protesters clash in Brazil

ABOVE: Protesters and police clash in Sao Paulo before World Cup match 

SAO PAULO, Brazil – Protesters and Brazilian police clashed in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on Thursday ahead of the first World Cup match, but the demonstrations largely died down before kickoff.

Story continues below

More than 300 demonstrators gathered along a main highway leading to the stadium in Sao Paulo. Some tried to block traffic, but police repeatedly pushed them back, firing canisters of tear gas and using stun grenades. The flow of traffic to the arena was not blocked.

READ MORE: World Cup fever kicks off with Brazil vs Croatia

Later, a group of fewer than 100 protesters gathered near a subway stop about 8 miles (13 kilometres) west of the stadium. No protests reported near the arena itself.

IN PHOTOS: Powerful images of protests against World Cup in Brazil

A few protesters suffered injuries after being hit by rubber bullets, while others were seen choking after inhaling tear gas. 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 protester is detained by police during a demonstration by people demanding better public services and against the money spent on the World Cup soccer tournament in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014.

AP Photo/Nelson Antoine

“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.”

In the crowd were anarchist adherents to the “Black Bloc” tactic of protest, a violent form of demonstration and vandalism that emerged in the 1980s in West Germany and helped shut down the 1999 World Trade Summit in Seattle.

READ MORE: Civil strife all part of the game in Brazil

Such Black Bloc protesters have frequently squared off against police in several Brazilian cities in the past year, as a drumbeat of anti-government demonstrations have continued since a massive wave of protests hit Brazil last year.

Meanwhile, about 300 protesters gathered in central Rio de Janeiro in another demonstration against the World Cup. Police started using tear gas and took a few protesters there into custody, as marchers took to streets to denounce lavish public spending on a sports tournament in a nation with profound social needs.

But that protest also mostly dissipated a few hours before the match.

Police move past burning debris during a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

The 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 organized them.

That’s now changed, said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. He said the recent protests have shrunk, because they are “very specific in their aims, so they are quite easy for the police to control.”

Because the recent protests have been organized by established groups, there are leaders with whom the government can negotiate. Fleischer noted that federal officials recently convinced a large activist group of homeless workers to not demonstrate during Cup.

But there will remain remnants of protests because people who adhere to the Black Bloc movement and other “anonymous groups are difficult to negotiate with because they have no leaders to dialogue with,” Fleischer said.

 

© The Canadian Press, 2014

Report an error

Comments

Latest World Cup Videos