Monday, June 16, 2014

Brazil: Rio Cop Allegedly Shoots at Protesters (Updated)

Police in Rio de Janiero have come under scrutiny after a video apparently showed an officer firing a live gun round at protesters on Sunday night.

As seen in the following video via the Associated Press, what appears to be a policeman sitting on a motorcycle pulled out a pistol and fired at demonstrators outside the MaracanĂ¡ stadium prior to Argentina’s World Cup group match against Bosnia-Herzegovina:

In addition, another man in plainclothes who identifies himself as a police officer also pulls out gun and fired two shots into the air near the stadium.

Rio law enforcement spokesman Pedro Dantas said that the authorities would not comment until they can review the video though he alleged that Molotov cocktails had been thrown at officers.  He also claimed that there were no reports of any shooting victims during the protest even though the video footage showed protesters holding up some of the live ammunition purportedly used against them.

Update: Rio authorities announced on Monday that they have placed under administrative leave two policemen believed to have fired live rounds during Sunday's protest.  One of the officers will be "investigated by internal affairs to determine if any wrongdoing occurred."

An estimated 200 anti-World Cup demonstrators carrying banners reading “FIFA go home” marched towards the MaracanĂ¡ but their progress was halted by police on horseback.  Some of the protesters lashed with police who fired tear gas and stun grenades against the multitude.

Much like the actions in Rio, other small protests were held over the weekend near World Cup matches in Brasilia and Porto Alegre. These actions were peaceful, however, as demonstrators in the Brazilian capital held a sign welcoming tourists to the “World Cup of protests.”

Anti-World Cup demonstrations have been held across Brazil over the past year primarily over the billions of dollars spent on stadiums and other preparations for the tournament instead of social services.

Compared to last year’s mass street protests during the Confederations Cup last year, the rallies since the World Cup commenced on Thursday have been attended by fewer people and have occasionally been violent. One of the reasons for this may be due to a crackdown last week on individuals believed to be protest leaders:

The first indication came before a ball was kicked, when police arrested several high-profile activists, including film producer Elisa Quadros (known as Tinkerbell), singer and actress Luiza Dreyer and several citizen journalists, in surprise raids. One defining characteristic of the protests has been how egalitarian they have been. From favela residents to indigenous tribes, the protesters have come from all walks of Brazilian life, so many feel these high-profile activists were simply being made examples of. One activist sent me a text simply saying, "It's started."

"These are social activists who became popular during demonstrations over the past year, and it seems they were targeted because they became symbols of resistance and fierceness," says Eloisa Samy, a lawyer and human rights activist from Rio. Police had arrived at her home with a warrant to seize her computer and phone. "The police did not explain what they were investigating, or who had ordered the operation: it was quite Kafkaesque."

According to Samy, police are using a new law aimed at organised crime to hold and question individuals. "These activists are being accused of being part of a criminal organisation. The law passed last year created special procedures for crimes involving three or more people, and was aimed at organised crime, but it is now being used to criminalise, and eventually punish, protesters."
Video Source– Associated Press via YouTube

Online Sources including Update– The Guardian; Fox Sports;; USA TODAY

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