Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called her top cabinet members for an emergency meeting Friday, as the protests that have raged across her country for at least a week have continued to grow in size and veracity. Rousseff is really more of a hands-off kind of president, having made only one public statement earlier this week in support of peaceful protest. But things have escalated since then, and as of early Friday, about a million protesters were believed to be in the streets of 80 cities clashing with police as they rally against what they view as an unreliable and corrupt government. Several people have been injured and at least one killed after a driver—furious that the fuss had made it impossible to drive through São Paulo—plunged straight into a crowd of protesters with his car. While being swarmed by protesters, Brazil is also playing host to the Confederations Cup soccer tournament, a warm-up to crowd control before Pope Francis’s upcoming visit, the 2014 World Cup, and the 2016 Olympics.
"Despite the violence, the majority of protesters have been peaceful. In massive demonstrations through this week, as small groups began to vandalize, crowds would often turn and start to chant, "No violence! No violence!"
But the pattern in cities across this continent-sized nation has been that once night falls, the violence begins. Protesters and police clashed in several cities into the early hours Friday, as people vented anger over a litany of complaints, from high taxes to corruption to rising prices.
At least one protester was killed in Sao Paulo state when a car rammed into a crowd of demonstrators after the driver apparently became enraged about being unable to drive along a street.
In Rio de Janeiro, where an estimated 300,000 demonstrators poured into the seaside city's central area, running clashes played out between riot police and clusters of mostly young men with T-shirts wrapped around their faces. But peaceful protesters were caught up in the fray, too, as police fired tear gas canisters into their midst and at times indiscriminately used pepper spray.
Thundering booms echoed off stately colonial buildings as rubber bullets and gas were fired at fleeing crowds.
At least 40 people were injured in Rio, including protesters like Michele Menezes, a wisp of a woman whose youthful face and braces belie her 26 years. Bleeding and with her hair singed from the explosion of a tear gas canister, she said she and others took refuge from the violence in an open bar, only to have a police officer toss the canister inside."
Protesters say they have no plans to back down.
Aerial footage of Thursday night's protests in Rio de Janeiro, estimated at 300,000: