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Police crack down on protesters

Saturday, June 14, 2014

SAO PAULO - Military police in Sao Paulo have clashed with masked anti-World Cup protesters hours before the Brazilian mega-city hosts the tournament's opening match.

Around 100 activists clad in the black masks and scarves of radical protest movement Black Bloc tore down street signs and traffic lights and set fire to them to block off a central street, prompting police to fire rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse them.

The protesters were trying to march toward the main avenue leading to Corinthians Arena, the stadium hosting the opening game between Brazil and Croatia yesterday afternoon before a crowd of more than 60,000 people, including 12 foreign heads of state.

The clashes came after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up an earlier, smaller protest near a Sao Paulo subway station.

That group, which had been brandishing a banner reading "If we have no rights, there won't be a Cup," had also vowed to march on Corinthians Arena.

But police carrying anti-riot shields forcefully broke them up before they could start.

One officer fired rubber bullets at a shirtless protester who stood in the middle of the street refusing to budge. Police then detained the man.

The demonstrators had also been chanting "There won't be a Cup" — the rallying cry of the protest movement against government spending laid out for the tournament, which opponents say should instead have been used for education, health, housing and transport.

A CNN journalist and her producer were "slightly injured" while covering a protest when they were hit with a tear gas canister, the network said in a statement.

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