Rubber Bullets Fly Outside the Confederations Cup Final in Rio de Janeiro

By Matias Maxx

On Sunday, Brazil's national men’s soccer team dismantled defending World Cup champions Spain 3–0 in the final of the Confederations Cup in Rio de Janeiro. In a soccer-crazed country like Brazil, you’d expect the buildup to such an event would be massive. And it was—but not for the love of the game. Thousands took to the streets adjacent to the soccer stadium where the match was played to continue to voice popular disdain for what protesters believe are the misplaced priorities of the national government: choosing to fund massive international sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics instead of investing in health care and human development.

Starting at noon on Sunday, the neighborhood of Tijuca was a fortified by around 6,000 police officers, members of the Federal Highway Police, National Force, Army, and Home Guard. A so-called FIFA perimeter was established, surrounding a two-mile radius around the stadium, only those who had tickets could pass, and locals could only enter after presenting proof of residence. The numbers were less significant than in the previous week’s demonstrations, and little more than 5,000 people were in the area until game time.


Vídeo by Thomás R. P. de Oliveira

Protesters at the perimeter wore black T-shirts, gas masks, keffiyehs, and shirts tied in the face. As game time approached the crowd focused in front of the barricades, some sat in front of the police, and as expected, right when referees whistled the start of the game, the tear gas and rubber bullets popped  I was immediately struck by a rubber bullet in the calf and could not keep pace with the retreating crowd and resisted, kicking the tear-gas grenades back, hurling stones and molotovs. Police quickly emptied the streets and protesters dispersed.

Brazil might have won the game and the police this skirmish with protesters. But the Confederation Cup, as any soccer fan knows, is just a warm up to the main event.

More protests in Rio de Janeiro:

How Last Week's Protests in Rio Turned Violent

Rio Militarizes Its Favela Slums in Preparation for the 2014 World Cup

Sao Paulo Is Burning

 

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