SÃO PAULO – Thousands of people have vented their anger over World Cup spending at a protest in the centre of São Paulo on Thursday evening, and demanded that the government free up funds for housing for the poor.
The protest was led by the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) and allied groups, and also included anti-World Cup and leftist political factions. Police said around 5,000 people took part, but organisers put the number at 32,000.
“The ball is now in the people’s, the workers’ court,” an MTST leader, Guilherme Boulos, said in a closing speech to the protest march, which ended on São Paulo’s famous Ponte Estaiada.
“We have occupied construction companies, which have profited most from [World Cup] money. Last week we closed five avenues. We’ve put our cards on the table and no one can say they don’t know [what we’re demanding],” Boulos said.
The MTST leader vowed the city would see a “Red June” and would be brought to its knees on 12 June – the day the World Cup opens in São Paulo – if the government fails to meet their demands.
“FIFA has had their slice of the cake; the companies have, too. We want our slice and not just crumbs,” Boulos ended.
The MTST says it is occupying around 90 sites around São Paulo, including one capable of accommodating 4,000 families in the same district as the World Cup stadium, and wants their status regularised by the authorities before the World Cup starts in three weeks’ time.
Teachers, bus workers, police forces, civil servants and other public workers are staged walkouts in recent weeks and could themselves be capable of bringing chaos to the World Cup in the forms of strikes and mass protests.
Another anti-World Cup protest is scheduled this Saturday afternoon, and will start at the central Praça da Sé square, which a hardcore group have said they will occupy from Friday evening.