Police detained 128 people in Sao Paulo – the city that is to host the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Brazil later this year – during weekend protests over the cost of hosting of the tournament.
A number of events planned to celebrate Sao Paulo’s 460th anniversary had to be cancelled, whilst shops and banks were damaged during the unrest on Saturday night.
Sao Paulo will host the first game and opening ceremony of the tournament in June, when Brazil play Croatia.
Around 2,500 people took to the streets of the city waving flags, carrying banners and chanting “there will be no cup”.
The weekend demonstrations were the latest sign of unease in the country. But the protests were far smaller than unrest in June last year, when more than one million people took part in cities across the country.
Then, violence erupted in a number of places and a teenager was killed when a car drove through a barricade in Sao Paulo state
Protests in that instance were originally focused on high transport fares, but grew to highlight the cost of the World Cup. Those demonstrations coincided with the Confederations Cup tournament, a warm-up event.
On Saturday, some 2,500 people took to the street in Sao Paulo to complain about the costs of staging the World Cup in Brazil.
The Anonymous Rio protest group billed “Operation Stop the World Cup” as this year’s first act against the football tournament. Protests were expected in more than 30 cities, but all except that carried out in Sao Paulo fell far short of organisers’ expectations.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the Sao Paulo art museum for about one hour before heading out to another part of the city while chanting slogans against the tournament.
As they approached the city centre, some “Black Block” anarchist demonstrators attacked an empty police car and tried to overturn it, while others torched a small car and smashed the windows of banks, as they have in previous protests since last year. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, dispersing the crowd. More than 100 demonstrators were detained.
Earlier during the demonstration, several protesters chanted: “If we have no rights, there will be no cup.”
“By rights, we mean the people’s right to decent public services,” said university student Leonardo Pelegrini dos Santos. “We are against the millions and millions of dollars being spent for the cup. It is money that should be invested in better health and education services and better transportation and housing.”
Fellow student Juliana Turno said “this is a small sample of the protests that will happen when the World Cup begins”.
In Rio de Janeiro, about 50 protesters gathered in front of the Copacabana Palace hotel, holding anti-World Cup banners. After about an hour, the crowd moved on to a main street that runs along Copacabana beach.
Small demonstrations were also held in several other cities.