June 14 marked the kickoff of the 2014 World Cup hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with a match between Brazil and Croatia. Brazil won 3-1, but amid the celebrations, angry Brazilians took to the streets to protest the World Cup.
Many Brazilians are angry that their government has decided to spend $11 billion on the soccer tournament rather than use the money to benefit their own people. These critics feel that the money should have gone to projects like low-income housing, hospitals, and schools.
Before the Brazil/Croatia match, a group of about 100 people took to the streets about seven miles away from the stadium where they threw rocks and started fires in an attempt to block people from reaching the game. The protest resulted in police using tear gas, at least one arrest, and spectators had to walk through rubble and debris to reach the stadium. The police have been accused of using excessive force by Amnesty International, who labeled the protesters as peaceful. Though the protests usually start out as peaceful demonstrations containing a serious message, more often than not a protestor will ignite havoc by throwing a rock or attacking police.
After the game, a group of about 600 people marched through the city carrying signs that read “FIFA go home” and “World Cup Corruption.” This protest is the most recent in a long string of anti-government protests that have taken place in multiple cities throughout Brazil over the past year.
Near the stadium a makeshift town of plastic tents known as the “People’s Cup” lays host to more than 3,000 families, who claim that the cost of rent has risen drastically since the beginning of the stadium-building process. With rent now far exceeding the minimum wage of $360 a month, many Brazilians have been forced out of their homes and into these temporary neighborhoods, reminiscent of the depression’s Hoovervilles.
Many Brazilians who are not directly involved with the protests still show sympathy for the cause and have begun rebelling in their own way. Such rebellions include not supporting their home country in the tournament, and instead rooting for other countries such as Argentina and England. A presidential election is set to take place in Brazil shortly after the World Cup, so there is hope among the people that the government will change radically after the people have cast their ballots.
In addition to the people protesting outside the stadium, there have been strikes led by teachers, police officers and subway workers, as well as marches organized by the Homeless Workers Movement.