With the tournament just months away, activists demanding better investment in public services take their protest to the streets.
Waving flags, carrying banners and chanting “there will be no Cup”, the demonstrators took to the streets in what the Anonymous Rio protest group billed as the first act in its “Operation Stop the World Cup” campaign. The event was largely peaceful but police later clashed with some protesters.
The demonstrators gathered in front of the Sao Paulo Art Museum for about an hour before heading out to another part of the city chanting slogans against the tournament. As they approached the downtown area, some “Black Block” anarchist demonstrators attacked an empty police car and tried to overturn it, while others torched a small car and smashed the windows of banks, as they have in previous protests since last year.
Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, dispersing the crowd. More than 100 demonstrators were detained. During the demonstration several protesters chanted: “If we have no rights, there will be no Cup.”
“By rights we mean the people’s right to decent public services,” said university student Leonardo Pelegrini dos Santos. “We are against the millions and millions of dollars being spent for the Cup. It is money that should be invested in better health and education services and better transportation and housing.”
Fellow student Juliana Turno said “this is a small sample of the protests that will happen when the World Cup begins.”
Another group sat on lavatories on Ipanema beach in the city to protest against what they say is a lack of basic sanitation in the city. Activist group My Rio said the aim of the protest was to raise awareness of the thousands of litres of untreated sewage they say is pumped into the sea off the city every day.
Activist Leona Deckelbaum said: “The Olympics are coming, the World Cup is coming, it’s a chance to draw attention and maybe the world can talk about what’s happening here in Rio.
“To me it is unbelievable that there’s not basic sanitation in a city like Rio.”
Rio residents who were sunbathing on the beach and who saw the protest, also expressed concern about the safety of the water in the city. Activists also want cleaner beaches for Rio
“We come to enjoy. And here we get the impact (from sewage problems). It’s really dirty. The sand, everything,” said Ruth Ferreira.
The protesters also carved-out coloured silhouettes of common bacteria found in sewage which they laid on the sand. Some 70% of Rio’s sewage is untreated and flows into the sea off Copacabana, Ipanema and the Guanabara Bay. These beaches are due to host several of Rio’s events at the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.
Last year, more than a million people took to the street in dozens of Brazilian cities over poor public services, corruption and the high cost of the World Cup.