SAO PAULO—That an event like the World Cup would bring football-crazy Brazilians into the street was to be expected, but that it would unite tens of thousands in protest caught authorities by surprise.
Resentment at the estimated $15 billion being poured into hosting next year’s soccer circus has acted as a catalyst for anger among the young, many of whom have been left behind by the much-heralded Brazilian economic boom.
So for the second day running Tuesday they flooded the streets waving the same green and gold banners they will surely brandish from the stands next year but also shouting themselves hoarse when confronted by authority.
“The people united, will never be defeated,” they chanted as more than 10,000 boisterous protesters massed outside the Se Cathedral, in the historic heart of Sao Paulo, a sprawling megacity and Brazil’s economic hub.
Givalnido Manoel, an official of the leftist Socialism and Freedom Party, said the revolt marked more than anger over official waste and rising public transport costs in a World Cup host city.
“After the Arab Spring, the Turkish Spring, now we are seeing the beginning of a tropical spring in Brazil,” he declared.
On Monday, around a quarter of a million Brazilians marched nationwide in the biggest protest since those against corruption in 1992 under the rule of Fernando Collor de Mello, who was subsequently impeached.
On Tuesday up to 50,000 took to the streets in Sao Paulo alone, according to statistical institute Datafolha. Police estimated the crowds at 10,000.
The mood was festive outside the cathedral, with many singing the national anthem and crying: “We are the sons of the revolution.”
Tension did rise later when a large crowd headed to City Hall and tried to storm the building before they were repulsed by police wielding pepper spray.
A giant orange and yellow banner proclaimed: “The people united against corruption.” Others read: “We are the future of nation” and “Don’t come to the World Cup, it’s dangerous.”
“I am here to demand a better Brazil,” said 21-year-old student Juliana Alves. “They are spending billions of dollars on the World Cup, but virtually nothing on education. This is unacceptable.”
Alves echoed the views of many when she said she had lost confidence in President Dilma Rousseff, whose support has slipped since she was elected in 2010 as the heir to the popular Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
“She betrayed us. She serves the interests of big capital, the wealthy. She neglects the poor, the indigenous people and the young,” Alves declared.
Earlier Tuesday, the president had attempted to win over the protesters by declaring: “These voices need to be heard. My government is listening to these voices for change.”
“My government is committed to social transformation,” she added, hailing what she called the largely peaceful nature of the protests.
But many demonstrators voiced deep disillusionment with traditional parties and politicians.
“I feel the need for change,” said 39-year-old Andre Luis Napolitano Gustavo. “The state has a constitutional obligation to provide security, health and education for the people. But this government has failed us.”
Lusitania Silva Rosa, a 27-year-old student, said all politicians were corrupt. “I am part of a generation that does not accept corruption.”