RIO DE JANEIRO/SÃO PAULO – Military police in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro have clashed with anti-World Cup protesters near the famous Maracanã stadium as the city’s first match of the month-long tournament got underway.
As Argentina faced off against Bosnia and Herzegovina on the pitch, protesters marched in streets near the stadium to voice their anger at World Cup spending by the Brazilian government and what they view as serious underfunding of public services.
The march reunited around 300 people at its height, but riot police ensured they did not breach police lines formed to prevent the protesters from getting to the stadium.
UPDATE: See my report for Mashable on eyewitnesses reports of police using live rounds at protest.
A small number of protesters vandalised bank branches and threw homemade petrol bombs at police, who responded with tear gas, stun grenades, pepper spray and rubber bullets in a bid to disperse the group.
Around fifty of the protesters were in masks, local media reported, and at least one was injured by rubber bullets in the ensuing clashes with police and was taken to hospital.
“The majority of Brazilians don’t have any rights. None at all. People are confronted by police, murdered and tortured,” a protester identifying himself as Rafael told the Anadolu Agency.
“What’s more, people are tortured every day with a lack of health and education. This World Cup is only for the rich,” the protester continued.
“The World Cup is theft,” another protester, who wished to remain anonymous, told AA. “Thirty billion reais for 30 days. And we don’t have anything.”
Correspondents at the tense scene said the number of protests grew as the march progressed, and that protesters tried to regroup after the main confrontation with police.
Clashes between protesters and police also marred the opening day of the tournament Thursday in São Paulo, at which a number of people, including journalists, were injured by police ordnance.
More protests are planned in the coming days.