RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A Brazilian police officer can be seen on an Associated Press video firing what appears to be a live pistol round at anti-World Cup protesters Sunday near Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana soccer stadium.
During the small but violent protest, another man in plainclothes who identifies himself as a police officer also pulls a pistol and fires two shots into the air near the stadium.
Pedro Dantas, a spokesman for the Rio government agency that oversees all security forces, says it will have no comment until it can review the video. He says there have been no reports of any shooting victims during the protest.
The action took place around the beginning of the soccer game between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina — the first World Cup match played in Rio’s iconic Maracana stadium since 1950.
Earlier, police fired stun grenades and tear gas to block a march by about 200 protesters toward Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium ahead of Sunday’s World Cup match between Argentina and Bosnia.
A standoff ensued, with banner-brandishing demonstrators massing near a police line guarding the route to Maracana.
Outnumbered both by security forces and journalists, the protesters chanted “FIFA, go back to Switzerland,” referring to international soccer’s governing organization. The protesters are angry over the lavish public spending on stadiums for the World Cup while conditions in Brazil’s schools and hospitals remain woeful.
Another protest occurred in the capital, Brasilia, but drew only a handful of participants, and a small protest also was held in Porto Alegre.
Mass protests broke out across Brazil during last year’s Confederations Cup soccer tournament. At that time, more than 1 million Brazilians took to the streets in a single day in the largest demonstrations this South American nation had seen in a generation.
Still, while anger about World Cup spending remains widespread, protests that have been staged since the tournament began last week have failed to draw strong public support, generally attracting only a few hundred protesters.
A heavy presence by security forces outside Brazil’s 12 World Cup venues has also helped keep demonstrations under control.