Brazil: 300 arrested in new round of protests

Some 300 people were arrested and 35 injured when thousands of Brazilians held protests in more than 150 cities on Sept. 7, Brazil’s Independence Day. As in massive demonstrations that broke out in June, the protesters on Sept. 7 demanded improvements in healthcare, education and other public services and opposed the large expenditure of government funds to build sports stadiums for the 2014 World Cup soccer championship and the 2016 Olympic Games. The new actions were reportedly much smaller and more violent than the earlier demonstrations.

The police in Brasilia used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters attempting to break though police lines around the Mané Garrincha stadium, where Brazil was playing Australia; a total of 39 people were reportedly arrested in the various protests around the capital, which included 2,000 people marching on Congress with a model of a prison which they said was intended for corrupt politicians. Protesters in downtown São Paulo tried to invade the City Council; at least one was seriously injured when agents fired tear gas grenades at the crowd. Meanwhile, masked youths in the Black Bloc tendency attacked a total of seven bank branches in the city. In Rio de Janeiro a group of some 300 protesters managed to invade the military’s Independence Day parade even though more than 2,000 police agents were guarding it. The police used tear gas grenades to stop the protesters; the gas forced parade guests to flee the reviewing stands, along with the spectators, many of them with children.

The protests were largely arranged through a Facebook page and a website. The main force behind them, according to some reports, was Anonymous, a loose network of hackers and internet activists, but the protests attracted support from groups on both the right and the left, including an organization with an English-language name, Brazil No Corrupt, which calls for the return of the 1964-1985 military dictatorship. Another group, the Day of “Enough, claims to be nonpartisan, with a focus on corruption and impunity. At the same time, members of the governing center-left Workers’ Party (PT) were also organizing protests for the day, while in Maceió, capital of the eastern state of Alagoas, a demonstration was organized by the Cry of the Excluded, a network based on progressive social movements and backed by the Catholic hierarchy. (Adital, Brazil, Sept. 4; El País, Madrid, Sept. 8; La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 8, from AFP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, September 8.