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Bracing for Mass Rally Brazil Deploys Spy Planes, Thousands of Police
Officials from Rio de Janeiro flex surveillance might ahead of what is expected to be largest demonstration yet
Brazilian authorities are ramping up in anticipation of the largest round of demonstrations yet Thursday evening with the deployment of thousands of additional armed officers and a high-tech police surveillance system that would make the United States National Security Administration proud.
Organizers expect the turnout for Thursday's march to be the largest yet, even surpassing the quarter of million people who protested Monday evening in cities across the country including over 100,000 people in Rio de Janeiro.
According to the Associated Press, protests are planned in over 80 cities nationwide with the largest crowds expected in Rio de Janeiro where protesters say they'll march on Maracana stadium "just as a Confederations cup soccer game is getting under way."
In anticipation of the crowds, authorities have reportedly deployed thousands of additional police personnel to Rio including a "battalion" of armed riot police.
The Guardian reports:
The military police spokesman for Rio state, Frederico Caldas, estimates that 8,000 police will be involved in a dual operation to handle the demonstration in the center of the city and security for the Spanish and Tahiti football teams to and from the Maracanã stadium – which is also expected to attract protesters.
The number includes 1,200 riot police who will remain in barracks unless the demonstration turns violent. They will be armed with teargas and rubber bullets, but the authorities say they will only be used in extreme cases.
The Guardian adds that Thursday's demonstration will be the first opportunity the Rio police force will have to flex their surveillance might with their recently inaugurated "high-tech police command center," which includes a "giant screen with images from hundreds of cameras around the city," to be aided by helicopters with "high-resolution imaging" to monitor the crowd. Ahead of the demonstration, police have also reportedly been monitoring social media sites "to anticipate plans for gatherings."
The fierce police crackdown witnessed in response to the largely peaceful demonstrations has spurred international attention and support to the nationwide protest.
In a gesture to curb the growing wave of anger, government officials in at least five major Brazilian cities announced Wednesday evening the reduction in public transportation fares—an issue which provided the initial spark for the resistance movement.
Following the news, there is little sign that the protests will ease up.
A statement issued by the protest group Free Fare Movement said the struggle "neither begins nor ends today." They credit the government's submission to the "blocked streets, barricades, and civil unrest" and vow to continue to fight until they achieve "a public transport without any charge, where decisions are taken by the users and not by politicians and businessmen."
Though initiated by unrest over the fare increase, the protests have spiraled into a larger demonstration against political corruption and the prioritization of tourism and international events such as the upcoming World Cup and Olympic games over basic civic commodities.
"It's not really about the price anymore," said Camila Sena, an 18-year-old student who marched Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro's sister city of Niteroi. "People are so disgusted with the system, so fed up that now we're demanding change."
"We are against a government that spends billions in stadiums while people are suffering across the country," added student Natalia Querino. "We want better education, more security and a better health system."
This video by Brazil's Folha de Sao Paulo gives a reporter's account of being shot in the face with a rubber bullet while covering the protests. (By turning on Closed Caption you can watch with English subtitles.)