Police, anti-World Cup protesters clash before Brazil match

Police, anti-World Cup protesters clash before Brazil match
Protesters brandished signs with messages including “FIFA go home”.

FORTALEZA, Brazil - Clashes erupted Tuesday at an anti-World Cup protest in the northeast Brazilian city of Fortaleza as demonstrators threw stones at police, who fired back with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.

The clashes broke out as around 300 demonstrators rallied against the government's record US$11 billion (S$14 billion) spending on the World Cup just before Brazil played Mexico at Fortaleza's Castelao Stadium.

Protesters blocked a road leading to the stadium and briefly held up fans making their way to the match, news website G1 reported.

Police arrested 30 people, 11 of them teenagers, G1 said.

Protesters brandished signs with messages including "FIFA go home" and "They say jump, you say how high?" 

Some of the protesters wore the black masks and clothing of the radical Black Bloc movement, which has been the most violent of the groups participating in the anti-World Cup protests that have hit Brazil in the past year.

Recent protests have been much smaller than a year ago, when one million people flooded the street during the Confederations Cup, a World Cup dress rehearsal, calling for more spending on health, education and transport.

"I think that with the police and the army in the street the movement got intimidated," Edelvina Costa, a 53-year-old protester, told AFP.

The protest was broken up before the start of the game, which ended in a 0-0 draw.

Activists also staged small anti-World Cup protests in host cities Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte.

In Rio, journalists outnumbered the 30 protesters who turned up, who were watched over by around 250 police.

In Belo Horizonte, around 200 protesters gathered at the height of a demonstration that was broken up by police without reports of violence.

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