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Brazilian Police Move In On Sunday's World Cup Protesters


And those protests that Tom mentioned earlier played out across Brazil in the year leading up to the World Cup. The complaints focused on the high cost of hosting the games. Many say that money should have been spent improving schools, hospitals, and neighborhoods. During the tournament, the rallies were more muted. But just before yesterday's final there was one more protest, and it turned violent. NPR's Russell Lewis was there.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: Just a few miles from Maracana Stadium, hundreds of people streamed into a plaza a few hours before game time. The marchers hoisted signs saying, FIFA, go home, and more stickers asking, who is this cup for? The police presence was impressive. Hundreds of officers wearing full riot gear ringed the area as the peaceful demonstrations got louder.


LEWIS: It wasn't long before the protesters entered the streets, blocking traffic and getting stopped by rows and rows of Brazilian officers. The police penned the group into a two block area as they marched back and forth. Then this happened.


LEWIS: A stun grenade fired right into the crowd, then another and another. Protester scattered, and that's when the next wave of the assault began.

LEWIS: Police are firing tear gas. It's in the streets, and people running away from it. It stings, of course.

LEWIS: The aggressive response continues. Police moved in, beating protesters heads with batons. Then they targeted the media. At least 11 journalists were hurt, their cameras ripped away. Before the protest, Rio de Janeiro activist Alice de Marchi said the police have cracked down and gotten more aggressive in the past year to deter protesters.

ALICE DE MARCHI: The way that the militarization has spread on the city. The militarization progress and process is very serious.

LEWIS: Another activist, Tomas Ramos, says one more reason demonstrators are upset is who gets a say in how the biggest cities operate.

TOMAS RAMOS: Our cities are run in the fashion that money is freer than people. That profit is always put over life.

LEWIS: Ramos points to the destruction of lower income neighborhoods and the high cost of living across the country. He says Brazil has never had so many protests as it had in the last year.

RAMOS: I think this is a moment where we're seeing an uprising of a new political generation of people - of these 99 percent of young Brazilians that don't want the 1 percent to run everything, as they have the last 500 years.

LEWIS: Ramos says change is coming from the streets, and he's expecting it to reach deeper into the next round of Brazilian elections in October. Russell Lewis, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.