Over 2,000 people marched through the streets of São Paulo Saturday. It was the city's 460th anniversary, but they weren't there to celebrate.
These were the first anti-World Cup demonstrations of 2014. And though they started peacefully, they quickly erupted into violence. Anarchists attacked an empty police car. Others torched a private vehicle and damaged storefronts. After breaking up the crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets, police announced that 128 people had been arrested. São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin condemned the violence, and the city cancelled some of its anniversary events.
In 2013, millions of Brazilians voiced their anger over political corruption, substandard public transit and underfunded social programs. Why, they asked, was the government willing to spend freely on an international event when it couldn't provide even basic public services to the country's nearly 200 million inhabitants?
President Dilma Rousseff eventually pledged $25 billion in transit improvements and proposed a referendum on political reform last summer. But Rousseff's efforts have not quelled protesters, who held signs and chanted "there will be no World Cup." One participant told the Guardian, "this is a small sample of the protests that will happen when the World Cup begins."
Smaller demonstrations took place in Rio de Janeiro, where about 50 people gathered, holding anti-World Cup signs before marching down a major city street and delaying traffic. Fifteen people were arrested at a protest in the city of Natal near their new soccer stadium, which officially debuted last week.