Sao Paolo, Brazil (4E Sports) – Hours before the opening of the World Cup, hundreds of protesters held several rallies, voicing opposition to Brazil’s spending on the month-long soccer tournament.
However, police quickly dispersed demonstrators with tear gas and rubber bullets near the stadium where Brazil will play against Croatia.
The intensity of the crackdown on the relatively small protests by the police seemed to stun the protesters. Several protesters and journalists were injured in the tumult, including a producer for CNN.
“The police response was absurd,” said Paula Machado, 24, an English teacher who was among the protesters. “This is a violation of our rights.”
Tension persists around the country over the tournament, with simmering resentment among many people over spending on the World Cup, estimated at $11 billion.
Huge protests last June against government corruption and lamentable public services also focused anger on the construction of lavish stadiums for the tournament, which involves teams from 32 countries.
In Sao Paulo, the protesters were largely peaceful, carrying banners criticizing FIFA, the organization overseeing international soccer and the World Cup. But at certain points some masked demonstrators also threw rocks and bottles in the direction of police, while lighting piles of garbage on fire in the street.
A small protest against the World Cup also unfolded in downtown Rio de Janeiro, with the police dispersing hundreds of protesters by firing rubber bullets in their midst.
Elsewhere, a strike by bus drivers began in Natal, a host city in northeast Brazil where the United States will play against Ghana on June 16. Hundreds of doctors in the city’s public health system also went on strike.
Brazil’s government said it was sending 4,700 federal troops to help maintain order in the city, where an estimated 530,000 commuters were affected by the transit strike.