Brazil police confirm death in protest near soccer stadium
Thousands took to streets during Confederations Cup semifinal
The host city of Belo Horizonte woke up to scenes of destruction and the confirmed death of a protester on Thursday after tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets and clashed with police as Brazil played Uruguay in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup.
Authorities said early Thursday that 21-year-old Douglas Henrique Oliveira died of head injuries after falling from an overpass during the demonstrations near the Mineirao Stadium on Wednesday.
Another protester also fell from an overpass as nearly 50,000 marched toward the stadium, but authorities said he sustained non-life-threatening injuries. There were also reports that one protester was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet and that another was injured by a gas bomb allegedly thrown by police. Police said about 20 people in total were reported injured.
Several hundred masked protesters clashed with riot police as they tried to get closer to the stadium to complain about the government and the high cost of hosting the World Cup in Brazil.
Shop windows were destroyed, houses were vandalized, a truck was burned and several cars at a dealership showroom were set on fire.
Street cleaners swept up the debris and broken glass on Thursday while shop owners calculated the cost of the damage.
Workers at the car dealership arrived in the morning to find five cars burned during the protests. Other vehicles were burned across the street.
A spokeswoman for the Kia dealership estimated the losses at about $2 million. The store had already sustained damages last week before another Confederations Cup match in the south-central city.
"Are we going to invest here again? And how will it be during the World Cup? Will the state guarantee security? Is it worth risking it again? We are really afraid," Larissa Lopes said.
Protesters threw rocks at shops and homes and painted walls with messages against the government and World Cup organizers.
"FIFA go home," said one of them.
There have been protests in nearly all six Confederations Cup host cities so far, but some of the most violent have been in Belo Horizonte. There were also clashes between police and protesters in Fortaleza on Thursday, where Italy played Spain in the other Confederations Cup semifinal.
Police said that about 30 people were arrested in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday.
The protesters dispersed outside the Mineirao after Brazil's 2-1 victory, but other groups of masked youngsters continued vandalizing shops on nearby streets. Local officials had declared a holiday on Wednesday as 100,000 people were expected in the protests. Many business owners had already boarded up their stores to try to keep the protesters away.
The clashes with police happened about 2 kilometres (1 mile) from the Mineirao at a perimeter where authorities set up barriers to keep protesters away, a normal procedure for international tournaments. Mounted police and riot units maintained another security line about 1 kilometre (half-mile) from the stadium.
The protests did not disrupt the match inside the Mineirao.
"Before the match we knew what was happening outside the stadium," Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar said. "But we tried to focus only on the match. We understand what Brazil is going through, and it's normal that these protests take some of the focus away from the Confederations Cup, but there are times that the players need to worry about their job on the field."
In recent weeks, Brazil has been swept by a wave of protests, many of them peaceful, demanding better public services, political reform and less corruption, among other things.