SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Dozens of people wearing white masks and carrying banners with the word ‘SHAME’ protested against corrupt police and rampant violence in Brazil’s big cities outside the Confederations Cup football draw on Saturday.
Protesters belonging to the Rio de Paz group, or River of Peace, said they had come to peacefully confront authorities because they were not being heard.
“If the authorities won’t come to us then we will go to them,” said Antonio Carlos Costa, the group’s organizer.
“A fortune is being spent on these big sporting events, the state has mobilized for this,” he said. “Why don’t we see the same money and effort being made to reduce the amount of violent killings taken place in this country.”
Costa said more around 50,000 people are killed in Brazil each year. Although the murder rate has fallen in most big cities over the last few years, Brazil is still one of the world’s most violent nations.
The situation is Sao Paulo is causing particular concern. Brazil’s biggest city is in the middle of a low intensity war between police and organized crime gangs that have left hundreds dead.
The homicide rate has doubled over the last few months and barely a day goes past without new reports of bodies turning up in the poor neighbourhoods that ring the city. Human rights groups say the police are responsible for some of the killings.
Security cordoned off the protesters, who sat on the ground outside the hotel and draw venue. Guards tried to prevent reporters from talking to them.
The protest was an embarrassment for authorities and particularly President Dilma Rousseff, who just moments earlier told an worldwide television audience that Brazil was a country “with no prejudice or exclusion and where there is a respect for human rights.”
The River of Peace has a record of performing public protests. They have erected thousands of white crosses on Copacabana beach and daubed themselves with red paint to symbolize violence.
The Confederations Cup draw, which lasted less than an hour, took a year to plan. Some 950 guests and almost 400 journalists were present.
Editing by Ed Osmond