Protesters shout: “Hey, FIFA! Pay my tariff-a!” São Paulo World Cup Protest, 27 March 2014. Photo by Ben Tavener
Protesters took to the streets in a number of Brazilian cities on Thursday to show their disapproval of the government’s spending of public money on this year’s World Cup.
The biggest protest, in São Paulo, saw around 1,000 people march down the central business avenue, Avenida Paulista for the fourth time in 2014.
See photos of the protest
A similar number of military police also lined the streets, protecting businesses and onlookers from potential vandalism and violence – seen at previous events. Traffic was diverted away from the protest and police blocked demonstrators from entering side streets.
São Paulo World Cup protest blocks part of the city’s main business avenue, Avenida Paulista. 27 March 2014. Photo by Ben Tavener
Although agitated masked individuals, purporting to be from the anarchy-loving Black Bloc group, united at the head of the protest and verbally abused photojournalists at the scene on more than one occasion, Thursday’s protests saw no violence and no arrests unlike previous editions of the demonstrations held under the general banner of “Não Vai Ter Copa” (Portuguese for “There Will Be No Cup”).
The protest largely related to the upcoming World Cup, but some condemned police violence: protesters reminded onlookers of the recent case of Cláudio Ferreira, who was dragged behind a police car through the streets of Rio after being shot in a police operation against armed gangs in a favela community in the city.
Others gave a reminder of next week’s 50th anniversary of the 1964 coup d’état and ensuing military dictatorship – of which protesters said today’s military police are a living legacy.
One of the São Paulo protest’s organisers, 20-year-old Vitor Araújo, said that its peaceful nature had shown that the demonstrators just wanted a platform to air their grievances, and that police had provoked tensions and violence at previous events:
“We’ve shown that things don’t start with us,” Araúja told Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. “We organized ourselves in such a way to avoid any kind of problem, as they start only when the military police repress them.”
At the end of the protest, the city’s fifth edition was announced for Tuesday 15 April.
William Oliveira, a 30-year-old tourism student from São Paulo told the Anadolu Agency that it was his right to come to the street to protests: “I’m hoping the country will improve now that people are coming out onto the streets, going online, and fighting for their rights.”
“There Will Be No World Cup!” 27 March 2014. Photo by Ben Tavener
“We’re here to protest, legitimately, against public money being spent for private ends,” São Paulo teacher Jaqueline Meire, 24, told AA.
“We know there is no way we can take back the money that has already been invested in the [World Cup] stadiums, but I hope that as a result of these protests our grievances, demands for public services like transport, health and education, will be addressed.”
An anti-World Cup demonstration was also held in Rio de Janeiro, where protesters gathered at the Central Station, before marching on the city’s main Avenida Presidente Vargas road.
Similar small-scale events were also held in Fortaleza and Belo Horizonte.
Despite their small scale, the nationwide coordination of Thursday’s protests was reminiscent of the mass protests seen during the Confederations Cup in June 2013 and the way in which they were organized.
And although Thursday’s protests are a far cry from last year’s mass protests, in terms of numbers, they have maintained surprising momentum and appear intent on continuing until the World Cup begins in São Paulo on June 12.
Indeed, a protest has already been called for near the city’s World Cup Arena Corinthians stadium, also known as the Itaquerão, for the tournament’s opening match between Brazil and Croatia.
Extended version of article written for Anadolu Agency