Downtown Curitiba, the capital of the Southern Brazilian state of Paraná, became a war zone on Wednesday as police violently suppressed a protest by public school teachers.
Police fired stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, who numbered 20,000, according to organizers. The protest took place in front of the State Congress building, where legislators adopted a law that would reform pension benefits for public servants in Paraná.
The police crackdown enforced a judge's decision to forbid demonstrations at the building, following smaller demonstrations in the area over the past week.
Local newspaper Gazeta do Povo reports 213 demonstrators and 20 police officers were injured. According to Curitiba city hall, police arrested seven people. There is some disagreement about the number of injuries, however. The Paraná state government, which is controlled by the rivals of the city government in Curitiba, say only 160 demonstrators were hurt.
On social media, photos, videos, and testimonies from the protest have been springing up.
— ѕyndιcalιѕт (@syndicalisms) April 30, 2015
Carolina Werneck, a resident of the city of Londrina, posted a heartbreaking account on Facebook of how she discovered a photo of her father (one of the teachers protesting) on a local newspaper's website. In the photo, he is shown as having been injured and firefighters were giving him first aid.
Nesta quarta-feira, enquanto acompanhava pela internet a votação do projeto que altera a ParanaPrevidência, liguei preocupada para o meu pai, que está em Curitiba, lutando, mais uma vez, pelos direitos que deveriam ser a ele assegurados por lei. Quando me atendeu, ele estava dentro de uma ambulância, porque foi ferido na perna por uma bala de borracha. Minutos depois, vi essa imagem no site da Gazeta do Povo. Esse professor deitado no asfalto, sendo atendido pelo Corpo de Bombeiros, é o meu pai.
This Wednesday, while I was browsing the Internet about the vote on the legislation that changes Paraná's public servants’ pension fund, I called my father, who is in Curitiba, fighting, once again, for rights that should be guaranteed by law. When he picked up, he was inside an ambulance because he'd been shot in the leg with a rubber bullet. Minutes later, I see this image on Gazeta do Povo‘s website. The teacher lying in the street, being cared for by firefighters, is my father.
Internet users have also not missed the chance to make references to the recent right-wing protests that took over the streets of many Brazilian cities and during which many protesters took selfies with the police.
o brasil é este país fascinante em que todos podem protestar pela educação, desde que não sejam professores
— Ricardo Coimbra (@coimbraricardo) April 29, 2015
Brazil is this fascinating country where everybody can protest for education, except teachers
Despite the protest and the subsequent crackdown, legislators still approved legislation that will save the state's treasury an estimated R$ 1.7 billion ($563 million) annually. Teachers’ unions say the law jeopardizes public servants’ retirement benefits.
In a press conference, Paraná Governor Beto Richa defended the police's handling of the protests, blaming “infiltrated black blocks” and “vandals” for provoking the officers.
Local media is reporting that 17 police officers were arrested after refusing to obey orders to attack the demonstrators and might be expelled from the corporation.