A protest against the World Cup held in the centre of São Paulo has ended in running battles with riot police and at least 260 protesters detained on Saturday evening.
Police say around 1,000 people took to the streets around the central República area of the city. A strong presence by both military and specialist riot police was visible throughout the event.
Police disperse protesters with tear gas and stun grenades. Photo by Ben Tavener.
The protest began peacefully at around 5pm local time, but tensions had been high from the start – with a number of masked individuals in the crowds and a number bearing anarchy symbols.
See photos from the scene
By about 6:40pm a small number of protesters began to throw rubbish bins and glass objects at police, and vandalise a number of banks and other shops – graffitiing anti-World Cup and anti-capitalist slogans.
Streets were strewn with rubbish and some protesters were seen kicking telephone booths and bus stops.
Police responded with rounds of tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowds, and also detained around 260 people in a police “kettle” – a holding area where they were then taken to local police stations for processing.
A number of journalists covering the protests were detained in the first wave of kettling – some were released after around half an hour.
Those in the police ring were told to keep their hands behind their backs and were forbidden from during their cell phones.
Police say they detained around 230 people at Saturday’s World Cup protests in São Paulo – including journalists. Photo by Ben Tavener.
After some time, both they and fellow protesters on the other side of police lines began calling for their immediate release.
Police had warned that they would pick out those likely to cause trouble and take them out of the protest in an operation using both martial art techniques and the kettling tactics.
UPDATE: All those arrested have now been released from police custody.
‘No World Cup’
Saturday’s protest, which had been organised on social media and was held under an ‘anti-World Cup’ banner, was in reality a continuation of the wave of mass protests seen in June last year, which saw over a million Brazilians take to the streets.
Protesters still have a long list of various grievances, including an end to what they see as gross public spending on international sporting events being held in Brazil to the benefit of a few, despite officials speaking regularly of the events’ legacy for the ordinary Brazilian.
The 2013 protests were initially sparked by an increase in public transport fares, and then diversifying into protests over the spending on the World Cup and Olympics, police brutality, government corruption and underfunding of public services.
Saturday’s protests, which included representation from a number of radical left-wing parties, saw placards and banners calling for an end to spending on the World Cup and corruption, and for better funding of the country’s public education and health systems.
“The protests have been going on since last June, but the media stopped covering them,” 29-year-old student Thiago, from São Paulo, told Anadolu Agency.
“We’re not so against the World up happening in Brazil but against the way it’s taking place. So much corruption, shameless corruption in front of our very faces.”
Twenty-four-year-old student Maria Ana, also from the city, told AA: “Things in this country only work for a very small number of élite people and all the other services for the mass are of terrible standard.”
“Tonight’s protests was meant to be peaceful – we were just chanting our slogans, but the police were brutal and attacked us,” she continued.
However, despite police’s decisive response to aggression on Saturday night, their overall presence and tactics seemed to be better coordinated and restrained than in past protests covered by Anadolu.
Brazil will stage the World Cup in June and July in twelve cities around the country, all of which have seen protests at some stage since last June’s million-strong protest turnout.
Three of the twelve stadiums have yet to be delivered to FIFA despite a December deadline. Curitiba earned a last-minute reprieve last week after threats it could lose World Cup status altogether.
Story and video made for Anadolu Agency.