Repression Allegations at World Cup Protests in São Paulo

Police are accused of using excessive force at an anti-World Cup protest, while support for the tournament drops.

By Maria Lopez Conde, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Lawyers from a trade group in São Paulo have concluded that there was excessive repression at an anti-World Cup demonstration that occurred in the country’s financial capital last Saturday, February 22nd, as support for the international sports tournament appears to wane in Brazil.

São Paulo State Security Secretary Fernando Grella Vieira, Brazil News

São Paulo State Security Secretary Fernando Grella Vieira, photo by Edson Lopes Jr./Governo do Estado de São Paulo.

“Even just for the numbers of [people detained], which corresponds to almost one fourth of protesters, and for that expressive number to include professionals, such as journalists, which were kept from their right to exercise their profession, it seems clear to us that there was excess on the part of the military police,” Marcos da Costa, president of Ordem de Advogados do Brasil de São Paulo (Brazil’s Order of Lawyers), told Agência Brasil on Monday, February 24th.

This statement comes two days after close to one thousand demonstrators gathered in São Paulo’s downtown República square on Saturday, February 22nd to protest against the high cost of staging the World Cup Brazil is hosting next June and July.

What began as a peaceful gathering (Não Vai Ter Copa – There Won’t Be a World Cup) turned violent as protesters clashed with police and groups of people attacked local bank branches. According the police, 262 demonstrators were arrested, the highest number of protesters arrested at one event since massive protests over a bus fare hike rocked Brazil in June and July of 2013.

Journalists from three outlets reported being attacked by police during the demonstration. Photographer Bruno Santos from the online portal Terra was beat and his equipment was destroyed by the police. Officers are also said to have beat Folha de São Paulo’s reporter Reynaldo Tortullo and O Globo’s Sergio Roxo. Another journalist, Paulo Toledo Piza from G1 online news, was not allowed to cover the event.

Repression at World Cup protest, Lawyers Say, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Members of the anarchist Black Bloc group stand together at an anti-World Cup protest in São Paulo at the end of January, while a man holds a “A World Cup for whom…?” banner, photo by Marcelo Camargo/ABr.

Fernando Grella, the Secretary of Public Safety of São Paulo state, labeled the action of military police at the protest a “success” but promised to look into accusations of violence against members of the press.

“Journalists and the police share the same space. While police try to maintain order, the journalists, which are the eyes of society, try to record what is happening. Individual cases of abuse will be investigated,” Grella said last Monday.

He affirmed that police have in the past and will continue to distribute vests to journalists covering events so that they are easily identified at protests. Earlier this month, a reporter covering an event was killed when he was struck by a flare allegedly launched by protesters.

Last Saturday’s confrontation is just the latest incident of violence between police and protesters as Brazil struggles to quell public safety fears during the international tournament. Attempts to crack down on protests have been met with accusations of excessive use of police force by both demonstrators and human rights groups in a country where support for the FIFA World Cup tournament appears to be fading.

A Datafolha survey released on February 24th shows that the World Cup event has the support of 52 percent of Brazilians, a noticeably smaller figure from the 79 percent who were in favor of hosting the tournament in Brazil in 2008. Thirty eight percent of Brazilians are now against the World Cup, compared to the ten percent who were not favorable to it in 2008.

Initially seen as a blessing for the five-time FIFA World Cup winner, a chance to develop public transportation networks and embark on ambitious infrastructure projects, Brazil’s path to the World Cup has been marked by unfinished and unsafe stadiums, countrywide protests over the high costs of the event, as well as inadequate mass transit and accommodation offerings.

4 Responses to "Repression Allegations at World Cup Protests in São Paulo"

  1. tank  February 26, 2014 at 3:59 AM

    Well you never know, repression happens everywhere!

  2. curmudgeon  February 26, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    The problem is that none of the press will wear the vests that the police supply, because if they do, the protesters will not let them near what’s happening.
    It’s censorship from both sides, both of which don’t want what they do reported on.
    Both police and protesters insist on covering up their identities, a sure sign that they know they will be doing something that the general public won’t like.
    Read all about it in OpEd.
    It’s not going to get any better, it’s going to get worse, particularly after Brazil is eliminated in one of the early knock-out rounds. The billions and billions of taxpayer dollars that have been spent on FIFA projects will come back to haunt ALL the politicos, Lula, Dilma, Cabral, Aécio, Campos–ALL of them have been big supporters of the World Cup here.
    FIFA gets richer, Brazilians get poorer.
    That’s a recipe for Venezuela or Argentina, and woe betide Brazil if this really does spill over into the streets.

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