Military police in São Paulo violently repressed peaceful protests in the city yet again last night in what Amnesty International is calling a threat to constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression ahead of the Olympic Games later this year.
The violent dispersal, which included military police firing volley after volley of tear gas and stun grenades at the protesters, left an unknown number of casualties, but protest organizers said at least three people suffered serious injuries. There were reports of four protesters being detained.
“Military police surrounded the demonstration and attacked the protesters, as witnessed in footage taken by media and the protest organizers. This violent repression and disruption of peaceful protests violates Brazil’s Constitution,” said Atila Roque, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil.
“It is unfortunate that, instead of promoting a policy debate on the issue of public transport in response to the demonstrations, the state unleashed a violent assault on the right to peaceful protest.”
The demonstration, organized by Movimento Passe Livre (Free Fare Movement) and other São Paulo youth groups, was the fifth in a string of protests this month over public transportation fare hikes in the city.
The demonstration began around the city’s central bus terminal and when protesters attempted to march towards the Legislative Assembly, a heavy police presence prevented them from doing so, in a clear violation of the right to freedom of assembly.
When protesters raised their arms and tried to move forward shouting, “No violence,” police responded by firing dozens of rounds of tear gas and stun grenades, as well as rubber bullets. Police also used their shields and batons to beat protesters.
A video taken at one point in the Praça da República, where the largest police presence had gathered, shows police firing 30 stun grenades in 15 seconds to disperse the protesters.