Youths clashed with police in central Rio de Janeiro on Monday as more than 200,000 people rallied in major Brazilian cities to protest the billions of dollars spent on the Confederations Cup and higher public transport costs.
The nationwide demonstrations, the country’s biggest in 20 years, were relatively peaceful.
They tapped widespread resentment over the huge costs of hosting the Confederations and next year’s World Cup while the emerging nation is hobbled by deep inequality between rich and poor and a creaking infrastructure.
Acts of vandalism were reported in Rio and Porto Alegre, while an 18-year-old was reported in stable condition in a Belo Horizonte hospital after falling from an overpass during the protest.
Police used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse small groups of masked youths engaging in acts of vandalism near Rio’s state legislative assembly. Some of the rowdy young people broke into the building and TV images showed a small fire.
Five policemen were reported hurt and a vehicle was set on fire.
Elsewhere in Rio, a host city for the Confederations Cup, police said about 100,000 people marched, notably down the central Rio Branco Avenue.
In Brasilia, more than 200 youths briefly occupied the roof of the Brazilian National Congress.
However, after negotiations with police, the boisterous crowd agreed to leave, chanting and waving placards as security forces ringed the building. Some of the protesters called for the resignation of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Later, an estimated 5,000 youths formed a human chain around the Congress building.
Police beefed up security around the Congress building and the presidential palace.
In Sao Paulo, the country’s economic capital and most populous city, an estimated 65,000 staged a generally peaceful march, with no repetition of the violence that marred similar protests last week.
Demonstrators lit a small fire outside the Sao Paulo State Governor’s Office, but police, who generally kept a low profile, barred them from entering the premises.
“Peaceful demonstrations are legitimate,” Rousseff said in a bid to calm tempers.
“It is natural for the young to demonstrate,” she said in a statement posted on the presidency’s blog.
“I came because I want Brazil to wake up. It’s not just to protest the higher transport fares, but also because of shortcomings in education and health,” said 20-year-old Diyo Coelho, who marched with friends carrying flowers in Sao Paulo.
About 3,000 rallied outside Porto Alegre’s City Hall, where police intervened after acts of vandalism by youths who set a bus on fire.
About 30,000 protesters marched in Belo Horizonte, 10,000 did so in Curitiba and another 10,000 in Belem. Smaller demonstrations were held in Fortaleza, Salvador and other cities.
“I am here to show that Brazil is not just about football and partying. We have other concerns, like the lack of investments in things that really matter, like health and education,” said Daiana Venancio, a 24-year-old lawyer marching in Rio.