By SIMON ROMERO, New York Times
September 7, 2013
RIO DE JANEIRO — Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in dozens of cities across Brazil on Saturday and were dispersed violently by the police while mounting some of the most vigorous expressions of anger with governing institutions since an outburst of antigovernment demonstrations shook the political establishment in June.
Still, fewer people turned out in major cities on Saturday than in the earlier wave of mass protests. That broad flare-up of public ire has given way to an array of more fragmented movements, some of which have been struggling in the face of crackdowns by Brazilian security forces.
“This whole government only knows how to rob us,” said Naiana Vinuto, 25, a management student among the protesters in Rio de Janeiro, expressing anger about political corruption in different parts of Brazil’s vast public bureaucracy.
Police officers in riot gear faced off in Rio’s old center with hundreds of demonstrators, arresting at least 24 people. As in the other cities, the protests here were organized to challenge the military parades commemorating Brazil’s independence. People attending the parade, including children, suffered from tear-gas inhalation as the police tried to disperse the protests.
Elsewhere, hundreds of protesters in Maceió, a northeastern city, halted a military parade, and the security detail of Teotônio Vilela Filho, the governor of Alagoas State, hastily removed him from the scene, according to televised reports. In Brasília, the capital, the police dispersed protesters with pepper spray as they tried to get near Congress.
Resentment of Brazil’s legislature continues to fester, especially after lawmakers recently held a secret vote to allow Natan Donadon, a congressman from Rondônia State in the Amazon, to retain his seat even after he was sent to prison this year for embezzling public funds. Brazil’s highest court is reviewing a challenge to that vote.
“Currently, politics is a dirty game of exchanges,” said Graciara Albuquerque, 32, a protester in Brasília, citing the vote allowing Mr. Donadon to keep his seat. “They always are in favor of their own interests.”
Protesters in Brasília also tried to gather around the stadium where the national soccer teams of Brazil and Australia were slated to play, reflecting widespread anger over spending on lavish stadiums for the World Cup, which is scheduled to be held in Brazil in 2014, while many public hospitals and schools remain in deplorable condition.
Security forces, including police officers on horseback, tried to disperse the protesters in Brasília. Amid the tumult, police dogs attacked two photojournalists, according to local news reports. One of the photographers, who works for the Reuters news agency, was injured and removed from the scene by the police, apparently so he could receive medical care, the newspaper Folha de São Paulo reported.
In São Paulo, demonstrators shut down Avenida Paulista, the city’s most prominent thoroughfare, and protesters vandalized bank offices along it before shifting their focus to the municipal legislature, hitting the building with rocks before the police fired tear gas in their midst.
“I’m protesting because I want a decent home,” said Maria Pier de Britto, a maid. “For me, housing is Brazil’s biggest problem, after the health care system.”