The Darker, More Violent World Cup Kick-Off in São Paulo That You Didn't See

Upper left: Use pepper spray against an immobilized man. Upper right: Injure foreign journalists with shrapnel bombs. Down left: If the military police is not afraid to act when the whole world is watching. Down right: Imagine what it will be like when nobody is watching. Image by Pirikart, free to use.

Upper left: Use pepper spray against an immobilized man. Upper right: Injure foreign journalists with shrapnel bombs. Down left: If the military police is not afraid to act when the whole world is watching. Down right: Imagine what it will be like when nobody is watching. Image by Pirikart, free to use.

Hours before music filled Arena Corinthians during the colorful 2014 World Cup opening ceremony in São Paulo, a starkly different scene was playing out on the city's streets.

As protesters were preparing to rally on June 12, 2014, against the large amount of public money spent on the sporting event instead of on services like health and education, Brazil's military police launched an aggressive crackdown on the group. Amidst the rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades, 37 people were injured, including several journalists, and 47 people arrested.

Demonstrators tried to take refuge where they could, including in the Union of Subway Workers that at the time was also preparing to protest for fairer pay. Some sought help from the press covering the situation, according to the Collective Advogados Ativistas (Activist Lawyers Collective):

Jornalistas acabaram por ver-se tão acuados quanto os demais atores da manifestação, na medida em que estes os buscavam como um possível “porto seguro”, independentemente do tipo ou nacionalidade dos profissionais envolvidos.

Journalists ended up seeing themselves cornered as the other people in the protest, to the extent that protesters sought them as a potential “safe haven”, regardless of the type or nationality of the professionals involved.

CNN Brazil bureau chief Shasta Darlington and producer Barbara Arvanitidis were slightly injured when they were hit by shrapnel from a bomb thrown into the crowd by military police. At the same protest, Argentinian journalist Rodrigo Abd was hit by shrapnel in the leg. A French journalist was hit by a rubber bullet in the leg and a Brazilian cameraman from the SBT network was hit by shrapnel in the head.

Catalan journalist Sergi Altadill's eardrum was perforated after a tear gas bomb thrown by police burst beside him; he was later hospitalized as a result.

Activist Daniele Lima described the scene on Facebook:

A Tropa de Choque chegou também, batendo seus cassetetes nos escudos e depois na gente de novo. Confusão, fecharam a estação, chamaram a cavalaria, fecharam as ruas em volta.

The Shock Troops also arrived, beating their batons on their shields and then at us again. Confusion, they closed the [subway] station, called the cavalry, closed the streets around.

The case of protester Rafael Marques Lusvarghi, 29, drew particular attention. After the English teacher was struck in the chest by rubber bullets, police held him down while an officer sprayed pepper spray in his face.

Manifestante rendido é torturado com spray de pimenta no rosto. Imagem de uso livre.

Police hold protester Rafael Marques Lusvarghi while he is sprayed with pepper spray in the face during protests in São Paulo before the opening of the World Cup. 

Anonymous Rio offered details on Facebook:

[Ele] estava parado sozinho em frente à tropa ao lado do metrô Carrão quando levou dois tiros de borracha no peito. Em seguida, ele foi imobilizado pelo próprio comandante da operação e ao menos mais cinco PMs. Mesmo algemado e imobilizado, Lusvarghi foi atingido por um jato de spray de pimenta nos olhos.

Por causa da repercussão das imagens, ele perdeu nesta sexta seus dois empregos – em uma escola e em uma multinacional do setor de tecnologia.

[He] was standing alone in front of the troops off the subway Carrão when he was shot twice in the chest with rubber bullets. Then he was immobilized by the operation commander himself and by at least five more military police officers. Handcuffed and immobilized Lusvarghi was hit by a blast of pepper spray in the eyes.

Because of the impact of the images, he lost his two jobs on Friday – at a school and a multinational in the technology sector.

In Rio de Janeiro, military police also cracked down on World Cup protests. In the confusion, Pedro Guilherme Freire, a professor, was dragged away and detained by military police. Protesters recorded the moment that he was detained.

Professor Pedro Freire agredido e arrastado pela PM. Foto de Daniel Fonsêca, usada com permissão.

Pedro Freire is dragged and detained by Brazil's military police in Rio de Janeiro during World Cup protests. Photo of Daniel Fonsêca, used with permission.

Videos on Facebook show other incidents during protests. Activist Rafael Rezende posted a video showing a military police officer grabbing a protester from behind, and activist Paula Kossatz published a video in which police chase and beat protesters with batons during a night demonstration on the Rio de Janeiro shore.

The website Revolution News also released a video showing journalists from activist media group Mariachi Collective being arrested in Rio de Janeiro: 

In the city of Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais state, Reuters Agency photographer Samuel Costa was wounded in the head during protests. A total of 18 people were arrested in the demonstrations.

A member of the Collective Media Ninja, Karinny de Magalhães, was arrested and accused of being part of a group that overturned a car during protests there, despite her live broadcast proving she was elsewhere at the time. 

The collective said on its website that she “was beaten by five police officers until she lost consciousness” at a military barracks before being transferred to a civil police station. She was released the next day.

Anger over the country's handling of the World Cup remains. More protests across the country are expected throughout the games under banners such as “Não Vai Ter Copa” (There Won't Be World Cup) and “Sem Direitos Não Vai Ter Copa” (Without Rights, There Won't Be World Cup). 

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