Brazilian police have clashed with protesters demanding better working conditions for teachers.
The protest began peacefully on Monday in the country’s second-largest city Rio de Janeiro as thousands of protesters occupied one of its major boulevards, demanding pay increases for teachers. Teacher unions said 50,000 people participated in the rally, while police put the number at 10,000. The demonstrators also spoke against the excessive use of force on the teachers during a rally held last week. The supporters of the protesting teachers say there is a shortage of at least 300,000 primary school teachers in the country, leading to overcrowded classes and a poor learning environment. The Monday protest turned violent hours later when police resorted to using tear gas to disperse the crowds and the protesters hurled stones and Molotov cocktails. “Without the police, there is no violence. When they are there, there always is,” said protester Hugo Cryois. The Monday rally was the latest in a number of recent demonstrations by the protesting teachers, who have been on strike for almost two months. On October 1, striking teachers gathered peacefully in front of Rio’s City Hall; however, the protest ended with police firing rubber bullets and setting off deafening percussion grenades. Rio’s police forces have come under fire for their brutal responses to the recent street protests. Although the head of the military police was replaced, allegations of police brutality against the protesters have not ended. The country has seen anti-government rallies since June, with protesters demanding more public spending on schools, public health, and transportation. In addition, Brazilians have been angered by the lavish costs of the two major sporting events of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, as the government has allocated over USD 26 billion of public money to the events.