Police clash with vandals in Sao Paulo

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 July, 2013, 2:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 July, 2013, 2:57pm

Brazilian riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse extremist protesters who ransacked bank branches, shops and car dealerships in central Sao Paulo.

A police spokesman said five people were arrested during the clashes, which followed a peaceful march by 300 demonstrators against Sao Paulo state Governor Geraldo Alckmin.

The protest, called via the internet by the Black Bloc anarchist group, also demanded the demilitarisation of the state police, who have been accused of using excessive force in previous disturbances.

Riot police charged after a small group of extremists, who went on a rampage in the Pinheiros neighbourhood, smashing windows in banks, shops and other businesses.

The police hurled tear gas and stun grenades against the vandals, who retreated to adjacent streets, setting fire to piles of trash.

There was no official word on casualties, but a photographer saw one demonstrator injured by flying glass.

Police, who earlier warned that they would use force to stop “criminal acts,” tightened security to prevent the demonstrators from reaching the city’s main Avenue Paulista, where 50 demonstrators chanted anti-Alckmin slogans.

“We want Alckmin to go. He is a corrupt capitalist,” said 25-year-old Orlando Azevedo.

Various police units were deployed on the Avenue Paulista, Sao Paulo’s financial heart, where last Friday some 300 extremists wrecked around 10 banks and set fire to a television news van.

Friday’s violence erupted after a march in support Rio de Janeiro demonstrations against state Governor Sergio Cabral, who is accused of corruption.

In Rio last week, around 200 protesters marched to within a few metres of a Copacabana beach stage where visiting Pope Francis was wrapping up a massive ceremony with hundreds of thousands of young Catholics.

Last month, Brazil was jolted by a wave of massive street protests in scores of cities to demand better public services and an end to endemic corruption.

The unrest began in Sao Paulo with young militants demanding a rollback of public transport fare hikes, a call picked up in several other major cities. The fare increases were subsequently canceled.