Just hours before the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony kicked off, a group of several hundred protestors gathered near Maracanã Stadium in northern Rio de Janeiro to express their anger and frustration at the failure of the Brazilian government to live up to the promises it had set out when it won the right to host the Games.
Demonstrators organized the event to protest what they call “The Exclusion Games,” decrying the forced evictions and rampant police violence they attribute to Olympic preparations in Rio. Participants chanted for the end of the military police and increased spending on education throughout the two-hour march, which was flanked by heavily armed riot police and followed by police helicopters.
“This state of calamity means the State cannot pay for public services—for education and for healthcare. [The Olympics] is an event for foreigners, for tourism that simply does not bring any benefits to the population,” said one high school teacher who did not wish to be identified.
Several demonstrators were arrested following an altercation with police, during which the young protesters tried to hide in a crowded bakery.
But the protest appeared to be ending when violence broke out in a crowded park, sending hundreds of demonstrators and bystanders running for cover.
Tensions escalated after several young demonstrators burned a Brazilian flag to symbolize the Olympic torch and began running around the park. Riot police brandishing batons attempted to break up the crowd. Heavily militarized “shock troops” had only recently arrived at the scene when they immediately fired a percussion grenade and tear gas into the park, where families with young children were still on a playground.
The red gas left people choking on the street and at least one woman seriously injured following an allergic reaction and apparent seizure. One demonstrator dressed as Spider Man congratulated the shock troops for using red gas, which he said perfectly symbolized the violence inflicted on the city’s residents.
Thousands more protesters filled the streets near Copacabana Beach earlier in the day, where they demanded interim President Michel Temer’s resignation. Read more on the Brazilian political crisis here.