With less than a month before the start of the World Cup Games in Brazil, protests and strikes erupted in several host cities on Thursday, according to the Washington Post and other news sources, with crowds clashing violently with police.
In Sao Paulo, police fired rubber bullets and resorted to tear gas as protesters set fire to piles of trash, barricading the central boulevard. In central Rio de Janeiro, over 1,000 protesters tied up rush hour traffic, playing instruments and singing as several hundred riot police stood by. By early evening, the crowd had grown to over 2,000 people after striking teachers and University employees joined the crowd.
"We are beginning to gain strength to go against the injustices of the World Cup," said Luana Gurther, a social sciences student in Sao Paulo. "We are the ones who should decide where the public money goes. More funding for schools, hospitals, housing, transportation- not the Cup."
Blasting the Brazilian government for the billions that have been spent to host next month's soccer tournament, protesters say they want to draw attention to what they called a lack of spending to improve poor public services, health care, education, security and infrastructure systems. “We are against the cup for the spending and for forgetting health and education,” said striking teacher Eduardo Douglas.
“The World Cup here in Brazil is the worst thing in the world for workers,” said Umberto Rocha, a director of a union for Rio security guards, speaking at a meeting. “They are investing in stadiums and forgetting the people.”
The capital city, Brasilia was also the site of protests, with people carrying banners with "FIFA Go Home," printed on them while in another Cup host city Belo Horizonte, about 2,000 people took to the streets to voice their dislike of the soccer tournament.
In the World Cup host city of Recife, a police strike led to lawlessness. Police are in the third day of a strike, asking for a 50 percent pay raise. Looters were free to ransack stores, while seven murders were reported within seven hours. Authorities in Recife have already cancelled two professional league soccer matches scheduled to be played this weekend.
Speaking for the government, press officer Manoel Guimaraes for the state of Pernambusco, said, "They are obviously using the proximity of the World Cup to pressure us to give into their demands."
This week's protests are not as big as the protests that erupted last year over the start of the Confederations Cup, a warm-up tournament for the World Cup. Many people in favor of the World Cup games point out the focus on the riots is misleading, with one person saying the world needs to take into account that 2,000 protesters in a city of 8.0 million is insignificant.
Brazil's leaders had hoped the World Cup and the coming 2016 Olympic Games would put Brazil in a favorable spotlight with the rest of the world, showing the advances made in improving its economy and bringing millions of people out of poverty.