100,000 line streets of Brazil to protest corruption

Protestors are reflected on the glass of a building, left, as they march in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 17, 2013. Protests in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian cities, set off by a 10-cent hike in public transport fares, have clearly moved beyond that issue to tap into widespread frustration in Brazil about a heavy tax burden, politicians widely viewed as corrupt and woeful public education, health and transport systems and come as the nation hosts the Confederations Cup soccer tournament and prepares for next month's papal visit. AP Photo/Felipe Dana

SAO PAULO More than 100,000 people took to the streets in overwhelmingly peaceful protests in at least eight cities Monday, demonstrations that voiced the deep frustrations Brazilians feel about carrying heavy tax burdens but receiving woeful returns in public education, health, security and transportation.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic hub, at least 65,000 protesters gathered at a small, treeless plaza then broke into three directions in a Carnival atmosphere, with drummers beating out samba rhythms as the crowds chanted anti-corruption jingles. They also focused on the cause that initially sparked the protests last week - a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares.

A demonstrator wearing a Guy Fawkes mask holds a Brazilian national flag during clashes in downtown Rio de Janeiro on June 17, 2013, after a protest against higher public transportation fares and the use of public funds to finance international football tournaments.
A demonstrator wearing a Guy Fawkes mask holds a Brazilian national flag during clashes in downtown Rio de Janeiro on June 17, 2013, after a protest against higher public transportation fares and the use of public funds to finance international soccer tournaments.
CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of protesters in the capital, Brasilia, peacefully marched on congress, where dozens scrambled up a ramp to a low-lying roof, dancing on the structure's large, hallmark upward-turned bowl designed by famed architect Oscar Niemeyer. Some congressional windows were broken, but police did not use force to contain the damage.

"This is a communal cry saying: 'We're not satisfied,'" Maria Claudia Cardoso said on a Sao Paulo avenue, taking turns waving a sign reading "#revolution" with her 16-year-old son, Fernando, as protesters streamed by.

"We're massacred by the government's taxes -- yet when we leave home in the morning to go to work, we don't know if we'll make it home alive because of the violence," she added. "We don't have good schools for our kids. Our hospitals are in awful shape. Corruption is rife. These protests will make history and wake our politicians up to the fact that we're not taking it anymore!"

The protests come after the opening matches of soccer's Confederations Cup over the weekend, just one month before a papal visit, a year before the World Cup and three years ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The unrest is raising some security concerns, especially after protests last week in Sao Paulo and over the weekend in Rio produced injury-causing clashes with police.

Monday's demonstrations saw some violence. In Rio de Janeiro, a small group of protesters set a car on fire and threw rocks and flares at police. In the southern city of Porto Alegre, protesters hurled rocks at commuter trains.

A policeman lies injured on the ground after clashing with demonstrators during a protest in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 17, 2013.
A policeman lies injured on the ground after clashing with demonstrators during a protest in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 17, 2013.
AP Photo/Felipe Dana

But those were the exceptions to the peaceful norm.

Protest leaders went to pains to tell marchers that damaging public or private property would only damage their cause.

Police, too, changed tactics. In Sao Paulo, commanders said publicly Monday they would try to avoid violence, but warned they could resort to force if protesters destroyed property. During the first hours of the march that continued into the night there was barely any perceptible police presence.

The Sao Paulo march itself was a family oriented affair: A group of mothers received a rousing cheer when they arrived at the plaza where the march began, brandishing signs that said "Mothers Who Care Show Support."

"I'm here to make sure police don't hurt these kids," said Sandra Amalfe, whose 16-year-old daughter chatted with friends nearby. "We need better education, hospitals and security - not billions spent on the World Cup."

Officers in Rio fired tear gas and rubber bullets when a group of protesters invaded the state legislative assembly and hurled things at police. But most of the tens of thousands who protested in Rio did so peacefully, many of them dressed in white and brandishing placards and banners. Many people in the city left work early to avoid traffic jams downtown.

Protestors march in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 17, 2013. Protests in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian cities, set off by a 10-cent hike in public transport fares, have clearly moved beyond that issue to tap into widespread frustration in Brazil about a heavy tax burden, politicians widely viewed as corrupt and woeful public education, health and transport systems and come as the nation hosts the Confederations Cup soccer tournament and prepares for next month's papal visit.
Protestors march in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 17, 2013.
AP Photo/Felipe Dana

In Belo Horizonte, police estimated about 20,000 people joined a peaceful crowd protesting before a Confederations Cup match between Tahiti and Nigeria as police helicopters buzzed overhead and mounted officers patrolled the stadium area. Earlier in the day, demonstrators erected several barricades of burning tires on a nearby highway, disrupting traffic.

Protests also were reported in Curitiba, Belem and Salvador.

Marcos Lobo, a 45-year-old music producer who joined the protest in Sao Paulo, said the actions of police during earlier demonstrations persuaded him to come out Monday.

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