Hundreds of people took to the streets of São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and business centre, on Thursday night in a largely peaceful protest against the country’s hosting of the World Cup – which begins on 12 June this year at the city’s Arena Corinthians stadium.
The event, dubbed the “Third Act against the World Cup”, drew over 1,500 people onto the streets, according to police figures, although correspondents at the event say the figure appeared to be higher.
Police say 1,700 military police and riot troops were deployed to keep order, and differed greatly from the last anti-World Cup protest, on 22 February, when martial arts-trained police detained some 260 potential troublemakers in “kettles”, and tear gas and stun grenades were fired on protesters. This included at least five journalists, who were kept in the kettle despite showing their press passes.
Thursday’s march, which wound its way 10 kilometres through the heart of the city, saw only five arrests, according to police – one of which was a 15-year-old.
Military police were noticeably better behaved than before, and even acted with restraint when an explosive object – which police described as a type of ‘mortar’, was thrown at them on Avenida Paulista – the city’s central business street.
At least one bank – Banco do Brasil Estilo – was vandalised on Avenida Paulista, but businesses and wary onlookers – mainly workers and customers – were shielded by police while more volatile parts of the protest passed, with troops forming lines to seal off businesses and metro entrances.
‘No World Cup!’
The protest again ran under the banner of Não Vai Ter Copa – “There won’t be a (World) Cup” – and over 14,000 had signalled their attendance – or rather solidarity – on Facebook.
Brazil is spending R$33 billion (around US$18 billion) on the World Cup and many of the protesters are angry this money is not being invested into sorely-needed public services and infrastructure.
“I’m here not just because I’m against the World Cup, but because of everything that’s happening in Brazil, which hasn’t been going well for ages,” Débora Aoni, a 35-year-old actress from São Paulo, told an Anadolu Agency correspondent at the protest.
“We’ve got problems with transportation and infrastructure – nothing works,” Aoni continued.
“I hope a lot of people will join us at the next protest,” 24-year-old student Thiago Weber told AA. “I know people are afraid of the police but we have to stand up for our rights and our opinion about the government spending billions on this World Cup.”
This may well be helped by Thursday’s relatively uneventful protest – which both protesters and police will claim as a victory.
But while headline news in Brazil, Thursday’s protest was still a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of protesters than took to the streets in June and July 2013, during the World Cup warm-up, the Confederations Cup, but a fourth ‘Act Against the World Cup’ has already been called for Thursday 27 March.
And protests for the World Cup itself are more or less a certainty.
Unedited version of story written for Anadolu Agency