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Rio's Olympics can't keep throwing protesters out of venues, court rules

The ruling comes amid high political tension in Brazil as the effort to permanently remove suspended president Dilma Rousseff from power approaches its culmination.

by Jo Tuckman
Aug 9 2016, 5:10pm

Des supporters brandissent des banderoles "Temer Dehors" avant un match de football féminin entre le Brésil et la Suède, dans le Stade Olympique de Rio. (Photo de Leo Corre/AP Images)

A Brazilian court has banned the Rio 2016 organizing committee from removing spectators who carry out peaceful political protests inside Olympic venues.

The ruling comes at a time of high political tension in Brazil as the effort to permanently remove suspended president Dilma Rousseff from power approaches its culmination, with supporters alleging she is a victim of a veiled coup.

The tension ensured the torch relays ahead of the Games were punctuated by periodic demonstrations.

The opening ceremony in the Maracaná stadium on Friday was also marked by boos for acting president Michel Temer, who replaced Rousseff when she was suspended in May.

It has also brought a steady trickle of small scale protests at competition events.

A video of soldiers kicking a fan out of the archery competition on the weekend triggered a social media storm.

The spectator — said to be a 40-year-old geophysicist — reportedly first attracted attention by holding up a sign saying Fora Temer, or Temer out. According to the Brazilian website Zero Hora, police removed him after the crowd began chanting the slogan.

Military police also ejected a group of female spectators from a US-France women's soccer game who were wearing t-shirts that spelled out Fora Temer.

A fan is taken outside the Sambodromo by the policeduring an archery competition in Rio De Janeiro for allegedly protesting against acting president Michele Temer. (Video via YouTube)

The Olympic committee justified the actions with a statement on Monday saying it was applying the "clean arena policy" in line with the International Olympic Charter's ban on "political, religious, or racial propaganda in any Olympic site."

Federal prosecutors, however, successfully persuaded Judge João Augusto Carneiro Araújo that removing peaceful protesters attacks the higher right to freedom of expression.

The court's ruling, which was released on Monday evening and is effective immediately, specifically cites the right to carry banners or use t-shirts with a political message. It sets a fine of 10,000 reales ($3,000) for each violation of the ruling.

The battle, however, isn't over.

"We will respect the decision, but we have the right to appeal and that is what we are going to do," Mario Andrada, the committee's communications director, told reporters on Tuesday. "The Olympics is not the place for these kind of protests."

Meanwhile, the political tension may rise even more this week. The senate is expected to vote on Tuesday in favor of ordering Rousseff to stand trial for allegedly hiding government deficits behind creative accounting. If this happens, the trial itself would be due to take place around August 26.

Related: The Rio Olympics want you to forget that Brazil is in turmoil

Follow Jo Tuckman on Twitter: @jotuckman