SAO PAULO, Brazil — Sao Paulo residents hit the streets Monday night for the fifth in a series of protests that have morphed into a general fight against corruption.
Demonstrations began about two weeks ago in opposition to a public transit fare hike. They've since snowballed into a movement drawing hundreds of thousands across Brazil airing complaints about the government.
A record 65,000 people met in the western area of the city known as Largo da Batata on Monday to protest a 10-cent rise in metro and bus fare. The movement started with a group called Passe Livre (Free Pass), largely made up of students, which argues that students should be able to ride public transit for free. Last night, united by outrage, they were joined by members of other social movements — and others who didn't belong to any formal group at all.
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Signs and banners littered the view as the crowd grew rapidly, with people pouring out of Faria Lima metro station and joining from numerous side streets to converge on the Largo da Batata square. They called for the removal of Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, who had previously supported military police use of rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters and journalists at a previous demonstration held on Thursday.
Many covered their faces with painter's masks and bandanas. The crowd smelled of vinegar as protesters prepared for the possibility of another confrontation with police that would involve tear gas.
While the atmosphere was tense, the demonstration remained non-violent. Chants and drum beats filled the air, and many protesters handed out flowers, calling for peace. Some had painted their faces like clowns and wore red noses, while others used pig masks both to disguise their identities and make a statement against their government.
One small group sang the Brazilian national anthem loudly. Draped in their country's flag, they said that they were fighting for a better Brazil.