Brazil protests over transport price hike turn violent

Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO — Protests in Brazil’s two biggest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, calling for rises in public transport fares enacted earlier this week to be revoked, ended in violence on Friday.

In São Paulo, the event organised by Movimento Passe Livre (the Free Fare Movement, MPL) reunited up to 10,000 people, according to an Anadolu Agency correspondent at the scene. Police put the number at 5,000 by the end of the protest, while the MPL said 30,000 people had participated.

The crowd marched around the city centre in protest at the 50-centavo price hike, which increased single fares on bus, local train and metro services to R$3.50 (US$1.33).

Although the majority of participants — some of whom are demanding free public transport for all — marched peacefully, dozens of young individuals dressed in black and with covered faces began throwing trash into the street and then hurled rocks at police about an hour after the march began.

Riot police responded with volleys of tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets, our correspondent adds, before detaining 51 people, as police later confirmed.

[UPDATE: This number was updated to 53 people during Saturday.]

São Paulo MPL protester arrested. Screen grab. 9 Jan 2015. By Ben Tavener

São Paulo MPL protester arrested. Screen grab from video. 9 January 2015. By Ben Tavener

Three banks and two car forecourts were vandalized in the disturbance, which lasted over an hour, with groups splitting off in different directions and the main bulk of protesters dispersing after running from projectiles.

The G1 news portal said around 200 protesters continued to the scheduled end of the protests despite the unrest, and agreed to another event next week.

In Rio de Janeiro, where bus prices recently increased 40 centavos to R$3.40, a smaller protest took place.

Most of the 500 people who took part in the event, according to police figures, marched peacefully, but again a small minority burned trash in the streets and invaded the famous Central do Brasil rail station, where they symbolically jumped the turnstiles.

Police responded with stun grenades, but the event ended without detentions.

The protests evoke memories of the mass protests of June and July 2013 (see video below), sparked initially by hike in bus fares in São Paulo, which were also led by the MPL movement.

Numbers quickly ballooned to a point where over a million people took to the streets in over 300 cities across Brazil, the biggest demonstrations in a generation. Aside from transport costs, many other agendas were also brought into the mix, from demands for political reform to calls for better public services, particularly health and education.

President Dilma Rousseff sought to placate protesters and vowed to work towards political reforms and provide more funding for public services, something she reiterated at her inauguration on Jan. 1 to a second term in office.

Video: June 2013 protests

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