Police change strategy during São Paulo bus fare protests
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Police change strategy during São Paulo bus fare protests

Thousands took to the streets of São Paulo, Brazil on Thursday to protest the rising cost of public transport services. The protest came just two days after another event organized degenerated into riots between the demonstrators and Brazilian authorities.

The march, which police said about 2,500 people participated in, ran through the city center along the emblematic Avenida Paulista, occurring with only a few reported incidents.

A confrontation towards the end of the protest, during which a group of protesters tried to enter the Conceição subway station without paying, triggering the police to quickly disperse those who were present.

Two days previous, another much less peaceful protest took place as the São Paulo military police turned to the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and stun bombs to disperse the protest. There were several reported arrests and injuries as a result of the riots.

The rally was called by the Free Pass Movement (MPL), the same group responsible for the wave of protests that Brazil experienced in 2013, and is firmly opposed to the increase in public transport fares.

On Thursday morning, MPL representatives refused to come to the negotiating table organized by the Public Ministry of Sao Paulo, set to discuss the organization of future demonstrations, saying they already had a marked agenda for the upcoming protests.

The protest, the third called by the MPL so far this year, protested the government’s decision to increase bus, subway and train fares to 3.80 reais ($0.94) per trip, up by 8.57 percent.

Tuesday’s violence

Television footage showed several protesters injured, while the São Paulo military police said on its Twitter account that “two people were arrested carrying explosives.”

Officers fired tear gas in order to avoid the protest action, which resulted in a clash against citizens who tried to march peacefully, according to daily Folha de São Paulo. Despite these attacks, the protesters managed to advance towards the city center amid a heavy police contingent.

São Paulo’s Security Secretary, Alexandre de Moraes, said that at least 2000 people tried to break through the police blockade.

However, he argued that to avoid personal confrontation and the use of force, they had to fire tear gas.

“It is not possible that a demonstration turns into anarchy,” he said.

The official said at least 11 people were arrested.

Mostly young people, protesters carried signs reading “3.80 non-payment” in relation to the rise in price.

“I’m here to protest against the increased rate of transport. That is the goal,” Helena Gonçalves, a 20-year-old student, told AFP.

“I took part in the 2013 protests and  it did have an impact on the city, I hope the same thing happens now,” she added.

The price of the transport rate rose from Saturday from 3.50 reais to 3.80 (from $0.8 to $1, approximately).

The Sao Paulo government says that rising rates is below the rise in inflation in 2015, which was recorded at 10.67 percent.

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