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article image1 million demonstrate in Brazil as unrest continues to escalate

By Stephen Morgan     Jun 21, 2013 in World
More than one million people in over 100 cities in Brazil have taken to the streets as President Dilma Rousseff postponed a trip to Japan to hold an emergency meeting about the crisis.
Britain's Independent is reporting that more than 300,000 people protested in Rio de Janeiro and another 100,000 in Sao Paulo, as part of an escalation of nationwide unrest from "the Amazon jungle city of Belem, Porto Alegre in the south, the university town Campinas north of Sao Paulo and the northeastern city of Salvador."
The New York Times quotes a student demonstrator who is an organizer of the Free Fare Movement, which began the protests, as saying "The intensity on the streets is much larger than we imagined. It’s not something we control, or something we even want to control."
The protests are no longer confined to students and the middle classes, but have galvanized all sections of society, including the inhabitants of the notorious slums of Rio de Janeiro, who have created a group called Occupy Alemão, named after the poverty stricken Complexo do Alemão district.
The government has said it will annul the increased fares for public transport, but there are now so many social grievances and demands being made that the government doesn't know how to respond. Demonstrators are demanding better health, education and an end to corruption among many other things, while decrying the massive amounts spent on the present international soccer tournament being held in Brazil and the investments being made to showcase Brazil as the host of the coming soccer World Cup and Olympics.
Referring to the unrest, Al Jazeera's reporter on the ground said that "It is overall a leaderless movement. What we're seeing is the government not just trying to spin the story, but also trying to understand what it is the protesters want, what [they] can deliver."
Violence has escalated with police firing massive amounts of tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets into the crowds. In the capital Brasilia, police fought running battles with youth who attempted to torch the Foreign Ministry and other government buildings. At one point, Military Police had to be called in to defend the Presidential Palace.
Most of the protesters, however, are peaceful and many chanted slogans against vandalism, although they have not been spared by the police tactics. One group of peaceful protesters complained to the media of being hunted down by riot police, while sheltering from violence in a bar.
The Telegraph says that in Rio, 40 people were injured and one 18 year old boy, known as Marcos Delefrate, died and others were taken to hospital after an enraged motorist, who was unable to get through a street, drove his car into the demonstrators. It maybe that the increased force used by the police and the growing number of casualties could now add fuel to the fury.
The New York Times says that the official media is also coming under attack, after what many see as consistently biased reporting, portraying the protesters as hellbent on violence. In one incident, a TV van was set on fire and and a reporter was attacked. People are turning instead to citizen journalism and reporting events themselves online. One group has sprung up calling itself, N.I.N.J.A., which means Independent Journalism and Action Narratives in Portuguese. The New York Times called it "a makeshift, roving production studio," as the organizers roamed the streets using smartphones, camcorders and "a generator held in a supermarket cart."
In only two days, the numbers of protesters has quadrupled and there seems to be no end in sight to the unrest. Indeed, the demonstrations could well mushroom into something far larger over the coming weekend.
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