|Masked anti-World Cup protesters rip apart a Brazilian national team soccer jersey during a demonstration, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, June 12, 2014, hours before the first World Cup|
On June 13 — a night now known as a quinta sangrenta, or “bloody Thursday” — Silva was documenting the fourth in a series of protests that had paralyzed the heart of São Paulo. Protesters blocked thoroughfares and metro stations, demanding that city authorities revoke plans to hike the local bus fare.
The media had labeled the protesters a nuisance, public opinion was turning against them, and the governor of São Paulo, who was traveling in France, called on police to respond with authority.
As 20,000 protesters marched in the streets that Thursday night, the military police met them with force. Officers in riot gear approached a group of protesters on Maria Antônia Avenue shortly after sundown. They offered no warning, no announcement.
Flash grenades and tear gas canisters began to fall and the air grew unbreathable. People cried out as the scene — a peaceful mix of drums and chants only moments earlier — devolved into chaos.
A rubber bullet pierced Silva’s left eye as he tried to escape. He spent two nights in the hospital and endured several surgeries, but the doctors couldn't save it.
“I’m still trying to understand and accept the loss of my vision,” Silva told VICE News. “I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did.”
He was one of 837 Brazilians who reported injuries in protests last year.
Nearly 700 protests took place in Brazil in 2013. A new generation of protesters was coming of age and taking its politics to the street. What began as a demonstration against São Paulo’s bus fare increase rapidly evolved into an expression of grievances against social inequity, poor public services, political corruption, and excessive spending on construction for the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
|Mounted police, armed with tear gas and riot helmets, confront native Brazilians, brandishing bows and arrows, to stop them from marching towards the Mane Garrincha stadium during a demonstration in Brasilia|
São Paulo streets burn as Brazil’s protesters promise ‘fighting’ ahead of World Cup. Read more here.
The military police force is perhaps the most vivid legacy of the dictatorship; the protests revealed its capacity for violence to a swath of the population that had never experienced it before.
“We’ve seen a great increase in the repression of protests over the past year,” Daniela Skromov, a public defender for the state of São Paulo, told VICE News. “Protests are gathering more people than ever. This has revealed patterns of police abuse that, up until now, had never targeted protesters.”
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