RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Around 200 people marched along the beachfront in the Copacabana tourist district before Brazil’s World Cup match against Cameroon on Monday in a protest against the tournament as well as police violence in Rio de Janeiro’s favela shantytowns.
Carrying a banner that read, “The party in the stadiums is not worth tears in the favelas,” the protesters chanted: “We want health, education and who gives a (expletive) if Brazil are champions.”
Demonstrations have continued during the World Cup football tournament, but have shrunk in size and appear to be losing popular support as the country becomes increasingly engrossed in what is turning out to be one of the sport’s most exciting tournaments in recent times.
A heavy police presence has also ensured protests do not get too close to visiting fans or disrupt transportation to matches.
In Rio, the peaceful protest started near the FIFA Fan Fest, where a giant screen is showing World Cup matches, and moved up the main road that curves around Copacabana Beach where thousands of foreign visitors are staying. Traffic was not heavily affected with streets quiet due to a public holiday for the Brazil match.
Protesters avoided a showdown with police who had formed a barrier across Avenida Atlantica, not far from the studios of a number of international broadcasters including the BBC, by taking a sidestreet before reaching the line.
In Brasilia, where Brazil are playing Cameroon in their final first-round match in Group A, about 50 demonstrators set fire to a paper replica of the World Cup trophy and a Brazilian flag.
The protesters were vastly outnumbered by cordons of riot police, mounted policemen and barking police dogs that stopped the marchers about half a mile from the Mane Garrincha stadium as authorities took no chances of disruptions to the game. The protest fizzled out with no arrests.
A few hundred demonstrators also marched peacefully in Sao Paulo, and were again outnumbered by police, according to a Reuters witness.
Back in Rio, a number of visiting fans stopped to watch the demonstration and said they sympathized with the protesters.
“It’s peaceful and doesn’t spoil the party at all. I think FIFA should give back more because it benefits so much,” said Luis Flores, 34, a biologist from San Diego.
Peter Courts, a retired teacher from Britain agreed. “The money is going to FIFA and not to this country,” he said as he drank a beer and watched the protest go by.
Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia and Asher Levine in Sao Paulo; Writing by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Todd Benson and G Crosse