NEWS
06/12/2014 10:19 EDT | Updated 08/12/2014 05:59 EDT

World Cup 2014: Protestors Clash With Police Before Tournament's Opening Match

Mario Tama via Getty Images
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: A journalist is taken from a protest on a stretcher outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Military police resonded to the protest and there were with reported injuries. This is the first day of the FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

SAO PAULO - Protesters and Brazilian police clashed in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and at least three other World Cup cities on Thursday ahead of the first match of soccer's premier event.

Just after the match started, about 300 protesters demonstrating against the World Cup marched along Rio's Copacabana beach and stopped outside the FIFA Fan Fest — a closed and secured area on the beach where hundreds of fans are watching the match on a massive screen.

The protesters were carrying banners with slogans knocking the Cup. The protest was peaceful, but there were worries that violence could break out as several adherents to the anarchist "Black Bloc" tactic were seen in the crowd of demonstrators in Copacabana.

In Sao Paulo, more than 300 demonstrators gathered along a main highway leading to the stadium in Sao Paulo. Some tried to block traffic, but police repeatedly pushed them back, firing canisters of tear gas and using stun grenades. The flow of traffic to the arena was not blocked.

Later, a group of fewer than 100 protesters gathered near a subway stop about 8 miles (13 kilometres) west of the stadium. No protests reported near the arena itself.

A few protesters suffered injuries after being hit by rubber bullets, while others were seen choking after inhaling tear gas. An Associated Press photographer was injured in the leg after a stun grenade exploded near him. CNN reported on its website that two of its journalists were also injured.

"I'm totally against the Cup," said protester Tameres Mota, a university student at the Sao Paulo demonstration. "We're in a country where the money doesn't go to the community, and meanwhile we see all these millions spent on stadiums."

In the crowd were anarchist adherents to the "Black Bloc" tactic of protest, a violent form of demonstration and vandalism that emerged in the 1980s in West Germany and helped shut down the 1999 World Trade Summit in Seattle.

Such Black Bloc protesters have frequently squared off against police in several Brazilian cities in the past year, as a drumbeat of anti-government demonstrations have continued since a massive wave of protests hit Brazil last year.

Meanwhile, about 300 protesters gathered in central Rio de Janeiro in another demonstration against the World Cup. Police started using tear gas and took a few protesters there into custody, as marchers took to streets to denounce lavish public spending on a sports tournament in a nation with profound social needs.

But that protest also mostly dissipated a few hours before the match.

In Belo Horizonte, another Cup host city, about 200 protesters clashed with police at a rally against the event in a central plaza. Some demonstrators smashed the glass doors and windows of two banks. The protest has started peacefully but escalated, with the violence forcing at least one nearby hotel to shut its doors and ask guests not to go outside.

In southern Brazil, Porto Alegre, another host city, saw about 1,000 people gather for a protest against the Cup, with some breaking windows and hurling stones at police, authorities said. Black Block demonstrators smashed the windows of a few businesses, including a McDonald's restaurant. Others tossed over garbage bins and set them aflame. A group started to march toward the city's FIFA Fan Fest area, but police dispersed them with tear gas and rubber bullets.

About 150 protesters in the capital city of Brasilia were also scattered by police using tear gas and rubber bullets, according to the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper. Authorities confronted the demonstrators as they tried to march on the FIFA Fan Fest.

The demonstrations in recent months have paled in comparison those last year, when a million people took to the streets on a single night airing laments including the sorry state of Brazil's public services despite the heavy tax burden its citizens endure. Those protests were largely spontaneous and no single group organized them.

That's now changed, said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. He said the recent protests have shrunk, because they are "very specific in their aims, so they are quite easy for the police to control."

Because the recent protests have been organized by established groups, there are leaders with whom the government can negotiate. Fleischer noted that federal officials recently convinced a large activist group of homeless workers to not demonstrate during Cup.

But there will remain remnants of protests because people who adhere to the Black Bloc movement and other "anonymous groups are difficult to negotiate with because they have no leaders to dialogue with," Fleischer said.

___

Brooks reported from Rio de Janeiro. Associated Press writers Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo and Pablo Giussani and Frank Griffiths in Belo Horizonte contributed to this report.

Also on HuffPost

  • Getty Images
    Riot police stand next to a fire set up during an anti-World Cup protest.
  • Getty Images
    A demonstrator walks next to a barricade during an anti-World Cup protest on the morning the Brazilian mega-city hosts the tournament's opening match, in Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014. Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to break up dozens of protesters gathering near a Sao Paulo subway station with a red banner reading 'If we have no rights, there won't be a Cup,' saying they planned to march as close as possible to Corinthians Arena, the city's World Cup stadium.
  • Getty Images
    Riot policemen stand in position during an anti-World Cup protest on the morning the Brazilian mega-city hosts the tournament's opening match.
  • Getty Images
    Riot policemen move by a fire set up by demonstrators during an anti-World Cup protest on the morning the Brazilian mega-city hosts the tournament's opening match, in Sao Paulo.
  • Getty Images
    A police officer takes up position during a World Cup protest on the opening day of the event.
  • Getty Images
    A demonstrator stands in front of police during a World Cup protest on the opening day of the event.
  • Getty Images
    A riot policeman stops a passer-by during an anti-World Cup protest on the morning the Brazilian mega-city hosts the tournament's opening match, in Sao Paulo.
  • Getty Images
    Riot policemen advance during an anti-World Cup protest on the morning the Brazilian mega-city hosts the tournament's opening match.
  • Getty Images
    Police take up positions during a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo
  • Getty Images
    Police respond to a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • Getty Images
    Police respond to a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station
  • Getty Images
    Jounalists cover a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • Getty Images
    Police take up positions during a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • Getty Images
    A journalsit is taken from a protest on a stretcher outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • Getty Images
    A protestor gestures to police during a World Cup protest outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • Getty Images
    A journalist is taken from a protest on a stretcher outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  • Getty Images
    Police take up positions during a World Cup protest on the opening day of the event on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil .
  • AP
    Police fire rubber bullets at protestors in Sao Paulo
  • A protester is detained by police during a demonstration
  • AP
    Police shouts at journalists covering the detention of a protestor
  • AP
    A protester is detained by police during a demonstration demanding better public services and protesting the money spent on the World Cup
  • AP
    Police take away a protester after he was detained during a demonstration
  • AP
    A police officer searches a protester during a demonstration
  • Anti-World Cup Demonstrations Held On First Match Day Of Tournament In Sao Paulo
    Anti-World Cup Demonstrations Held On First Match Day Of Tournament In Sao Paulo
    Getty Images
    SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 12: A journalist is taken from a protest on a stretcher outside Carrao Metro Station on June 12, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Military police responded to the protest and there were with reported injuries. This is the first day of the FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
  • AP
    A protestor argues with police during a demonstration

America Votes
The latest polls, breaking news and analysis on the U.S. election from HuffPost’s Washington, D.C. bureau