By Jack Whibley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Violence flared again last night in Rio, this time in Zona Sul (South Zone) as peaceful demonstrations calling for the removal of State Governor Sérgio Cabral turned into clashes between protesters and police in the neighborhoods of Leblon and Ipanema.
Residents woke this morning to find banks, bus stops, shop windows and electricity panels vandalized along the main roads of Ipanema and Leblon after a night of civil unrest that has led to the arrest of at least sixteen people.
The demonstrations began on Wednesday evening near Governor Sérgio Cabral’s house on Rua Aristides Espínola. About 1,000 protesters gathered starting at 8PM, which shut down Leblon’s main avenue, Avenida Delfim Moreira, until 10:30 PM.
According to O Globo, conflicts between protesters and the Military Police began at 10:45 PM on the corner of Avenida General San Martin and Rua Aristides Espínola when a group of protesters threw rocks at police and the police responded with tear gas. One of the police’s tear gas “bombs” is also reported to have hit the popular Jobi bar on Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva.
It was around that time that reports indicate a group of protesters who had been demonstrating against the death of a civilian in the community of Rocinha reportedly joined the group. What started as peaceful demonstrations turned to vandalism later in the night as shops were looted and garbage fires started in the streets of Leblon and Ipanema.
Later, at around 1:30AM, a group of approximately 100 demonstrators gathered near the house of the Security Secretary, José Mariano Beltrame. They were dispersed by the Shock Battalion, who used rubber bullets and water cannons. Many of the protesters walked towards the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, where they then occupied Avenida Epitácio Pessoa.
According to the Military Police, seven policemen were injured in the clashes. There have been no reports of injuries to protesters so far. An emergency meeting has been called by Governor Cabral this morning to discuss the protests and security with the state security chiefs.
This comes almost a month after a widespread protest movement calling for improvement to public services and lowered public transportation fares, among others, swept up large cities in Brazil. At the time, some protests led to riots and vandalism in Rio’s Centro and Barra da Tijuca.
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