An estimated 100,000 demonstrators (The BBC reports 200,000) flooded the streets of eight different Brazilian cities Monday night, venting frustrations over poor public services, police violence and government corruption.
The marches began earlier this month in Sao Paulo, and soon gained momentum, escalating in violence last Thursday when 100 were injured by police. The protests have otherwise been peaceful, with frustrated citizens lamenting the billions spent on new soccer stadiums instead of social services like hospitals and education.
The marches, organized mostly through snowballing social media campaigns, blocked streets and halted traffic in more than a half-dozen cities, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia, where demonstrators swarmed past the Congress and Presidential Palace.
While peaceful, and unfolding mostly as a festive display of dissent, Monday's demonstrations were the latest in a flurry of protests over the past two weeks that have added to unease over Brazil's sluggish economy, high inflation and a spurt in violent crime.
The marches began this month with a small protest in Sao Paulo against a small increase in bus and subway fares. The demonstrations initially drew the scorn of many middle-class Brazilians after protesters vandalized storefronts, subway stations and buses on one of the city's main avenues.
But the movement quickly gained support and spread to other cities as police used heavy-handed tactics to try to quell the demonstrations. The biggest crackdown happened on Thursday in Sao Paulo when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in clashes that injured more than 100 people, including 15 journalists, some of whom said they were deliberately targeted.
"This is a communal cry saying: 'We're not satisfied,'" Maria Claudia Cardoso said on a Sao Paulo avenue, taking turns waving a sign reading "#revolution" with her 16-year-old son, Fernando, as protesters streamed by.
"We're massacred by the government's taxes — yet when we leave home in the morning to go to work, we don't know if we'll make it home alive because of the violence," she added. "We don't have good schools for our kids. Our hospitals are in awful shape. Corruption is rife. These protests will make history and wake our politicians up to the fact that we're not taking it anymore!"
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