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Massive protests in Brazil end with tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannons

The protest — against last week's impeachment of left-wing president Dilma Rousseff and her replacement with veteran conservative Michel Temer — reportedly turned violent after police blocked the progress of the marchers.

by Nathaniel Janowitz
Sep 5 2016, 2:57pm

Photo via Sebastio Moreira/EPA

A massive demonstration to protest the ousting of Dilma Rousseff from the presidency of Brazil ended with clashes, tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannons.

Organizers claimed 50,000 Brazilians took to the streets of São Paolo on Sunday, four days after the senate voted to impeach Rousseff and swore in her former vice president, Michel Temer, to serve out the rest of her term.

The newspaper O Globo reported that the clashes began after military police blocked the progress of the march. The authorities also accused the marchers of destroying turnstiles at a subway station.

The senate removed Brazil's first female president from office on the grounds that she broke fiscal laws by glossing over the size of fiscal deficits in the national accounts before her reelection in 2014, just as the country was slipping into the major recession where it remains today. The lower house had already suspended her in May, pending the trial in the senate.

Rousseff has repeatedly alleged that the whole impeachment process amounted to a "coup" pushed by corrupt politicians and the local economic elite seeking to protect its privileges. She has lodged an appeal before Brazil's Supreme Court, though most observers do not think she has much chance of getting the decision overturned.

In the meantime the former president from the historically combative left-wing Workers' Party has made it clear she has no intention of slipping quietly away.

"The resistance and the taint of coup bothers the executioners of democracy," Rousseff tweeted on Friday, ahead of the weekend's protests. "The constitutional right to free expression must be respected."

President Temer, who was officially sworn in just hours after Rousseff was impeached on Wednesday, sought to downplay the tension, telling reporters that the protesters were "small groups" and that "in a population of 204 million Brazilians, they are not representative."

The veteran center-right politician was speaking while in China for the G20 summit meeting with other heads of states in his first major international event since having his interim tag removed.

His effort to transmit business-as-usual calm ignores the fact that Brazil's political crisis goes far deeper than the impeachment.

The country's entire political class is also reeling from a massive anti-corruption judicial investigation — unrelated to Rousseff's creative accounting — that has tainted dozens of leaders from across the spectrum, including several members of Temer's own cabinet.

Related: Dilma Rousseff: Impeachment trial has 'bitter taste' of torture

Follow Nathaniel Janowitz on Twitter: @ngjanowitz