Protesters gather in Brazil despite concessions
People wait for the bus at a bus stop in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 20, 2013. Leaders in Brazil's two biggest cities said Wednesday that they reversed an increase in bus and subway fares that ignited anti-government protests that have spread across the nation in the past week. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)
A man boards a bus at a bus stop in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 20, 2013. Leaders in Brazil's two biggest cities said Wednesday that they reversed an increase in bus and subway fares that ignited anti-government protests that have spread across the nation in the past week. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)
A protester holds a banner that reads in Portuguese "We ask for heath and education, not the cup," referring to the Confederations Cup soccer tournament, a few miles from the soccer stadium where Nigeria and Uruguay will meet in Salvador, Brazil, Thursday, June 20, 2013. Beginning as protests against bus fare hikes, demonstrations have quickly ballooned to include broad middle-class outrage over the failure of governments to provide basic services and ensure public safety. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Demonstrators took to the streets once again across Latin America’s biggest country in a new wave of protests that have mobilized hundreds of thousands of people denouncing poor public services and government corruption.
The largest of the more than 80 protests appeared to hit Rio de Janeiro, where tens of thousands of people waving flags and carrying banners blocked several streets and avenues in a peaceful demonstration. The police cordoned off the area around Rio’s iconic Maracana Stadium, worried that protesters would try to disrupt the Confederations Cup soccer match under way inside.
Crowds also gathered in dozens of other towns as well on the main street of Brazil’s biggest city, Sao Paulo, marking a week since protests first erupted there over a hike in subway and bus fares. The demonstrations have since ballooned into a national phenomenon, with many middle-class Brazilians hitting the streets to decry a spectrum of everyday problems amid a commodities-fueled economic boom.
Mass protests are rare in the 190 million-person country, with demonstrations generally attracting small numbers of politicized participants. The ongoing, growing marches have caught the Brazilian government by surprise just a month before a papal visit and one year before Brazil plays host to the World Cup soccer tournament.
“I think we desperately need this, that we’ve been needing this for a very, very long time,” said Paulo Roberto Rodrigues da Cunha, a 63-year-old clothing store salesman in Rio.
In the northeastern city of Salvador, the police shot tear gas canisters and rubber bullets to disperse a small crowd of protesters trying to break through a police barrier blocking one of the city’s streets. One woman was injured on her foot.
Despite the energy on the street, many protesters said they were unsure how the movement would win real political concessions. People in the protests held up signs asking for everything from education reforms to free bus fare. They’ve also denounced the billions of public dollars spent on stadiums in advance of the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics to be held in Rio.