Riot police stand next to a fire set up during an anti-World Cup protest on June 12, 2014, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to break up dozens of protesters gathering near Corinthians Arena, where the World Cup's opening match will be played.

Brazilian Protesters Draw Harsh Penalties Before World Cup Opener

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades into crowds of protesters on Thursday ahead of the World Cup's opening match.

Riot police stand next to a fire set up during an anti-World Cup protest on June 12, 2014, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to break up dozens of protesters gathering near Corinthians Arena, where the World Cup's opening match will be played.

Riot police stand next to a fire set up during an anti-World Cup protest on Thursday in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to break up dozens of protesters gathering near Corinthians Arena, where the World Cup's opening match will be played.

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The first day of Brazil’s 2014 World Cup was marred by officials’ penalty decisions, hours before anyone kicked a soccer ball.

Police fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds of protesters in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday morning, according to Reuters. The protesters were attempting to cut off a roadway leading to the Corinthians Arena, where host-country Brazil will face the Croatian national team this afternoon.

Noise bombs were also fired into Thursday's crowd of about 200 people. A CNN producer was reportedly injured in the chaos.


At least one protester has been arrested, and at least five were injured. Three of those hurt were reportedly journalists, according to the BBC

The Brazilian government has deployed 170,000 security guards, police officers and federal troops to maintain order in the host cities, according to Fox News.

[READ: Brazil Favored as World Cup Opens Under a Cloud]

Reuters reports that some business owners in Rio, host city for six Cup games and the championship, had boarded up windows and doors on Wednesday, fearing riots and protests.

“I’m praying that nothing goes wrong,” Lizbeth Silva, clerical worker at a Sao Paulo school, told Reuters. “You hear about all these problems, but you still want to root for Brazil.”


Throngs of people gathered this week to protest, among other things, government overspending on World Cup infrastructure. An estimated $11.3 billion was spent on hosting the World Cup, according to Reuters. A $525 million stadium in Rio de Janeiro was $150 million over budget and six months behind schedule. 

But some Brazilians are frustrated that this money has not trickled down to the host country’s supporting staff of wage workers.

Police used tear gas earlier this week against striking metro workers dissatisfied with wages and benefits, according to The Associated Press. Subways were supposed to be fans’ primary means of transportation to the opening game Thursday, held at a stadium 12 miles east of central Sao Paulo. The five-day strike was suspended Monday.

“We thought that right now it’s better to wait,” said metro workers' union president Altino Prazeres, according to the AP. “We get the feeling that maybe we aren’t as prepared for a full confrontation with police on the day the World Cup starts.”


A Sao Paulo labor court fined the union $175,000 for the first four days of strikes. An additional $220,000 will be added to each additional day. An estimated 42 workers were fired as a result of the strike, according to the AP. Union members said they would march Thursday morning to demand that the fired workers be rehired.

As the metro strike resolved, an airport strike stepped in. Ground staff at Rio de Janeiro’s Galeao International Airport and the Santos Dumont Airport started a 24-hour partial strike Wednesday at midnight, according to Al Jazeera. A workers’ union representative told the AP that the airports would operate at 80 percent staff in light of potential fines from a strike of more than 20 percent of airports’ workforce.

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The airline staff demands a pay increase. So, too, do bus drivers in Natal, Brazil, where the U.S. will play Ghana on Monday. Bus drivers will stay home Thursday for at least 24 hours, demanding a 16 percent pay increase.

Teachers in Rio and federal museum employees throughout Brazil have been on strike for days, according to Bloomberg. Police officers are now back to work after striking in several cities during the days and weeks leading up to the cup, according to the AP.