On the first day of the World Cup, protesters are out in full force near the site of the first match today. Last year over a million people came out in protest to demand better public services and highlight corruption, and São Paulo was often a focus of these protests. For some the narrative has been that once the ball is kicked off these demonstrations would die down. It is clear that even if the current protests are smaller, those who have joined the movement are not backing down.
Just hours before the opening match police used tear gas to disperse crowds of people in the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere. Those demonstrating were trying to block a road to the Arena Corinthians, the home of the opening match between Brazil and Croatia. TV footage in São Paulo showed riot police using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse about 50 protesters near a metro station. CNN has reported that a couple of its employees were injured in the chaos.
— Ben Tavener (@BenTavener) June 12, 2014
Protesters carried a sign that said “If we have no rights, there won’t be a Cup”. They said they planned to march as close as possible to the stadium which would have been about an eight-mile walk. The foundation of the protests has always been a disagreement over the more than $11 billion in government spending laid out for the tournament, which opponents say should have been used for education, health, housing and transport instead.
There are also public works employees staging partial strikes in Rio de Janiero. Some airport services are being shut down. This comes after a five-day strike was ended by the workers of the São Paulo subway system just ahead of the first match of the competition.
It is clear that the protests are not ending as the ball kicks off. Even if they are small they will have an impact. Some are hopeful that if Brazil continues to advance in the World Cup the country will begin to unite. Only time will tell.