Demonstrators overturn a bus on June 19, 2013, in the center of Niteroi near Rio de Janeiro.

As Protests Escalate, Brazilian Leaders Meet to Discuss the Violence

Protests in cities throughout Brazil Thursday night left 1 person dead as leaders remain silent.

Demonstrators overturn a bus on June 19, 2013, in the center of Niteroi near Rio de Janeiro.

Demonstrators overturn a bus on June 19, 2013, in the center of Niteroi near Rio de Janeiro.

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After 1 million anti-government protesters poured into the streets throughout the night in dozens of cities, Brazilian leaders gathered at an emergency meeting Friday morning, but made no statement on the chaos that has rattled the nation.

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President Dilma Rousseff, who has been largely silent about the protests, held the meeting with top Cabinet members more than a week after the protests began. Though she made no statement following the meeting, she was expected to meet Friday afternoon with top bishops from the Catholic Church about the possible effects the unrest could have on a papal visit scheduled for July, according to the Associated Press.

Demonstrators clash with police  on Wednesday, June 19, 2013, in the center of Niteroi near Rio de Janeiro. (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

Though the protests have grown during the past week, the violence that erupted Thursday night caught Rousseff and other politicians off guard, Reuters reported. The protests began on June 13 when police cracked down on a small demonstration regarding rising bus and subway fares in Sao Paulo.

Brazilians flooded the streets in protest Thursday night to denounce the government and cuts to public services.

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Rousseff and other leaders have been criticized by Brazilian media for their response to the protests, according to the AP.

She and Brazilian governor Agnelo Queiroz "are the epitome of Brazilian rulers," wrote political commentator Fernando Rodrigues in Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo. "They embody the perplexity and the lack of leadership capabilities of several parties' politicians vis-a-vis the new phenomena of protests without leaders or defined proposals ... It seems they are just waiting and hoping the tsunami will end."

Students take part in a protest against corruption and price hikes at the National Congress building on Thursday, June 20, 2013, in the capitol city of Brasilia, Brazil. (Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images)

Also at issue for protesters is the distribution of funds for next year's World Cup, which demonstrators say is corrupt and too costly. Demonstrators complained about the $26 million of public money that will be spent on the 2014 soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics, NBC News reported.

The Confederations Cup, a warm-up tournament for the World Cup, is taking place in several cities hit by the protests, but world soccer organization FIFA said on Friday it had no plans to cancel the games, though it condemned the violence taking place.

"We support and acknowledge the right of free speech and to demonstrate peacefully and condemn any form of violence," the organization said in a statement. "We are in constant contact with the local authorities and have full trust in the security arrangements in place."

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At least one protester was killed in the state of Sao Paolo, the AP reported, and at least 40 others were injured in Rio de Janeiro.

An 18-year-old man died when a Jeep smashed through a barricade, according to NBC News. The driver then fled the scene before police could catch up with him.

Hundreds of thousands march in downtown Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, June 20, 2013. (Tasso Marcelo/AFP/Getty Images)

One of those injured in Rio, 26-year-old Michele Menezes, told the AP she was seeking cover with other protesters in a bar, when police threw a canister of tear gas into the building. The blast ripped through her jeans and covered her upper arm with a rash of small holes.

"I was leaving a peaceful protest and it's not the thugs that attack me but the police themselves," Menezes told the AP.

The Free Fare Movement in Sao Paulo, an activist group involved with the protests, said it would stop organizing new demonstrations for now after street fights broke out among some protesters with different objectives and political views, according to Reuters.

Douglas Belome, a member of the group, said some protesters attempted to prevent left-wing political parties from waving their flags, and things escalated.

"At least for now, there are no new demonstrations scheduled," he told Reuters.

 
 

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