Tear gas, arrests in World Cup opening match host city

23 February 2014 04:16

Brazilian police used tear gas and made dozens of arrests Saturday to disperse a protest in Sao Paulo ahead of the World Cup.

Among those arrested in Brazil's business hub, which will host the opening match of the World Cup on June 12, were five journalists, O Estado de Sao Paulo daily reported.

Military police said via Twitter that four demonstrators and two police had been hurt in the protests, which began peacefully but degenerated after some protesters set barricades alight and smashed windows of banks.

Police responded with tear gas.

The size of the protest was modest, rallying around 1,000 people, but some of those present were masked youths from the anarchist Black Bloc grouping.

Many Brazilians are angry at the billions of dollars being spent on the World Cup and also the 2016 Rio Olympics in a country where public facilities are poor and in need of massive investment.

Some marchers carried banners bearing slogans such as "There will be no Cup" or "Cup for the rich, scraps for the poor."

Some demonstrators accused the police of heavy-handedness, one insisting "not even a window had been broken when the police started attacking everybody."

Recent protests have drawn far fewer people than those which marred last year's Confederations' Cup, but this year's marches have included a more radical element.

Brazil is spending some $11 billion on the World Cup but many civilians say investment in health, education and transport should be far bigger priorities.

A February 6 protest in Rio ended tragically with the death of a television cameraman who died after being struck in the head by a flare.

Last year's demonstrations started off in Sao Paulo in response to transport fare hikes but quickly spread, drawing more than a million people into the streets with anger at World Cup spending an underlying theme.

A further round of fare rises earlier this month fuelled fresh anger.

The government insists that the country will benefit overall from staging the World Cup and polls show that a majority of the population back the event.

Source: AFP