Small protests mark opening day of World Cup in Brazil

Brazilian police clashed with demonstrators in Sao Paulo hours before the 20th FIFA World Cup kicked off between the host country and Croatia.


Police clashed with a small number of protesters in Sao Paulo on Thursday morning, injuring demonstrators and journalists with tear gas and rubber bullets, as much as the rest of Brazil’s largest city remained quiet just hours before the start of the FIFA World Cup.

Local media reported that five people, including three journalists, sustained injuries as police stopped a few hundred anti-World Cup protesters from entering a Metro station between downtown and the new Arena Corinthians stadium.

“Thank you to @WyreDavies and cordon of protesters who helped our @Arvanb01 after we were hit by canister at protest #CNNWorldCup,” tweeted CNN correspondent Shasta Darlington, apparently referring to CNN producer Barbara Arvanitidis and a tear gas canister, often used by Brazil’s military police.


A small protest also broke out in Rio de Janeiro, slowing traffic to the airport.

World Cup organizers probably were hoping the Sao Paulo protest, dispersed before noon, was the last gasp of a set of strikes, street actions and demonstrations that have repeatedly plunged the city into chaos since early May.

Metro workers decided late Wednesday to call off a planned subway strike. And the Homeless Workers movement called of a protest, planning instead to host a celebration on land they won from the government.

Many residents were given the day off from work or school Thursday, and the city, normally snarled in traffic, was eerily calm.

Brazil takes on Croatia in Sao Paulo at 5 p.m. to open the tournament.

Despite support for the home team itself, a recent poll revealed that a majority of Brazilians believe the World Cup here will do more harm than good, and residents routinely complain of the cost of the event while citizens suffer with low quality education, healthcare and transportation infrastructure.

Bevins is a special correspondent.