SAO PAULO — Protesters and Brazilian police clashed in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and another World Cup city on Thursday ahead of the first match of soccer's premier event.
Just after the match started, about 300 protesters demonstrating against the World Cup marched along Rio's Copacabana beach and stopped outside the FIFA Fan Fest — a closed and secured area on the beach where hundreds of fans were watching the match on a massive screen.
The protest was peaceful, but there were worries that violence could break out as several adherents to the anarchist "Black Bloc" tactic were seen in the crowd of demonstrators in Copacabana.
In Sao Paulo, more than 300 demonstrators gathered along a main highway leading to the stadium in Sao Paulo. Some tried to block traffic, but police repeatedly pushed them back, firing canisters of tear gas and using stun grenades. The flow of traffic to the arena was not blocked.
Later, a group of fewer than 100 protesters gathered near a subway stop about 8 miles west of the stadium. No protests were reported near the arena itself.
A few protesters were injured by rubber bullets, while others were seen choking after inhaling tear gas. An Associated Press photographer was injured in the leg after a stun grenade exploded near him. CNN reported on its website that two of its journalists were also injured.
"I'm totally against the Cup," said protester Tameres Mota, a university student at the Sao Paulo demonstration. "We're in a country where the money doesn't go to the community, and meanwhile we see all these millions spent on stadiums."
In Belo Horizonte, another Cup host city, about 200 protesters clashed with police at a rally in a central plaza. Some demonstrators smashed the glass doors and windows of two banks. The protest started peacefully but escalated, with the violence forcing at least one nearby hotel to shut its doors.