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Sao Paulo police crack down on anti-World Cup protest

Published on Jun 12, 2014 9:36 PM
 
Brazilian military troops stand guard before the training session of Russia's national football team at Estadio Novelli Jr in Itu, close to Sao Paolo, on June 10, 2014, a few days prior to the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Police in Sao Paulo fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets on Thursday, June 12, 2014 to break up an anti-World Cup protest on the morning the Brazilian mega-city hosts the tournament's opening match. -- PHOTO: AFP 

SAO PAULO (AFP) - Police in Sao Paulo fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets on Thursday to break up an anti-World Cup protest on the morning the Brazilian mega-city hosts the tournament's opening match.

Dozens of protesters had gathered near a Sao Paulo subway station with a red banner reading "If we have no rights, there won't be a Cup". They said they planned to march as close as possible to Corinthians Arena, the city's World Cup stadium, but police forcefully broke them up before they could start.

But police carrying anti-riot shields forcefully broke them up before they could start, firing stun grenades and gas. One officer fired rubber bullets at a shirtless protester who stood in the middle of the street refusing to disperse. Police then detained the man.  

The demonstrators had been chanting “There won’t be a Cup”, the rallying cry of the protest movement against the more than US$11 billion in government spending laid out for the tournament, which opponents say should have been used for education, health, housing and transport instead.  

Mr Gregory Leao, a 27-year-old law student who participated in the protest, said the demonstrators wanted to invade the stadium.  

“The objective is to put an end to the World Cup. We realise we’re not going to achieve it, but we believe Brazilians should rise up,” he said. “Brazilians love football but they don’t need this (World Cup) right now.”

The sprawling South American country was visibly divided on Thursday between excited fans decked out in green and yellow in fervent support of the national team and those fearful of anti-World Cup protests or determined to join them. 

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