Police in Brazil’s largest city Sao Paulo have fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to break up an anti-World Cup protest hours ahead of the tournament’s opening match.
Dozens of protesters had gathered near a Sao Paulo subway station with a red banner reading “If we have no rights, there won’t be a Cup”, the AFP news agency reported on Thursday.
The protesters were planning to march as close as possible to Corinthians Arena, the city’s World Cup stadium, but police forcefully broke them up before they could start.
The Reuters news agency quoting a local TV channel Globo News said at least one demonstrator was arrested about six hours before Brazil plays Croatia in the first match of the month-long soccer tournament.
Meanwhile, ground staff at Rio de Janeiro’s airports plan to stage a 24-hour partial strike on Thursday.
The workers pledged to maintain 80 percent service, but the strike will raise fears of delays as thousands of football fans descend on the city around the opening match in Sao Paulo and the first game in Rio on Sunday.
The umbrella union that represents the workers is calling for World Cup bonuses, better working conditions and raises of up to 12 percent, but says employers are offering a maximum of eight percent.
“After nine months of intense but failed negotiations and intransigence from employers, the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Airports Employees’ Union confirms it will strike on June 12,” the union said on its website.
More than three million Brazilians and 600,000 foreigners are expected to travel in Brazil during the tournament, which wraps up with the final match in Rio on July 13.
A labour court has issued an injunction ordering the unions to maintain staffing at 80 percent of normal levels or face fines of up to $22,400.
Meanwhile, subway workers in Sao Paulo voted on Wednesday against resuming a five-day strike that would have caused traffic chaos during the opening game.
The workers went on strike last week, but suspended their action on Monday night for two days to decide whether to walk out again during Thursday’s Brazil-Croatia match.