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Video Shows Tear Gas and Explosions as Riot Police Clash With Protesters in Brazil

Officials claim protesters in Sao Paulo hurled stones and fireworks at police during the latest demonstration over increased bus and train fares.
January 17, 2015, 5:29pm
Photo by Nacho Doce/Reuters

Riot police and protesters clashed Friday night in Brazil's largest city as thousands of Brazilians demonstrated against increased bus and train fares.

Brazilian officials told Folha newspaper that the clashes began when protesters in Sao Paulo hurled stones and fireworks at police. The police responded with tear gas and pepper spray.

Video from the scene shows thousands of protesters fleeing down a broad avenue near Sao Paulo's city hall amid explosions and a barrage of tear gas that created a thick haze under the streetlights.

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Some of the protesters paused to wave flags, but most appeared panicked and fled from the police while covering their mouths and noses.

Protesters blamed police for the clashes.

"It went as usual: the people demonstrated peacefully and the police threw gas," a 22-year-old law student named Isabella told AFP as she ran from police.

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Police arrested at least one person, a member of the radical "Black Bloc" movement, according to AFP. Folha said the protesters vandalized three banks.

The protests were organized by the Free Fare Movement, which calls for free public transportation for all Brazilian citizens. Subway and bus fares across Brazil increased January 6 from about $1.15 to $1.34.

The fare hikes come as Brazil is experiencing an economic slowdown, with low growth and high inflation.

"The rising price of transport is inconsistent with life conditions in people's daily lives in Brazil and is more in response to private interests' wishes," Brazilian student Joseph Reichmann told AFP.

The Free Fare Movement says 10,000 people participated in the protest, while police put the number at 2,000.

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The Free Fare Movement said in a statement that their goal was to hold peaceful protests, and that the group "does not agree with the attitude of some protesters, but that they cannot control everyone who shows up to protest." The group accused the police of surrounding peaceful protesters and beating them with batons "without any justification."

The protests were peaceful until around 6pm. A video from the website Revolution News and photos on the Facebook page of a Brazilian political party show protesters marching peacefully through the streets of San Paulo with a long line of riot police walking alongside them.

The protests and clashes were the second to occur in Brazil in a week due to the fare increases. Police arrested 51 people in clashes that erupted during last week's protests.

Previous fare hikes in 2013 brought out more than 1 million Brazilians, and led to a steep decline in popularity for President Dilma Rousseff.

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