SAO PAULO, Brazil — Protests in São Paulo and across the rest of Brazil for teachers' right and better quality education turned violent on Tuesday when police and demonstrators clashed.
What started as a peaceful demonstration of about 2,000 teachers, students and their supporters in São Paulo's west end, with chants of "vem pra rua" and "I pay, but I shouldn't, education is not a commodity," quickly devolved into violence when what appeared to be members of the Black Bloc started smashing the glass surrounding a Honda dealership.
The handful of people dressed all in black and with their faces covered moved on to break the glass fronts and windows of other local businesses and banks. They also threw Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with pepper spray, tear gas bombs and hits from batons.
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Home décor department store Tok & Stok was invaded during the commotion, although the reason was unclear. Police arrested 56 people inside the store and in its parking lot, but wouldn't comment on the charges being laid.
Lawyers from an activist organization also present at the scene said the group, who appeared to be mostly university students, was reportedly being accused of forming a gang and aggression.
Others who had been in the vicinity during the invasion and arrests claimed the protesters went into the store to escape the tear gas being thrown by military police and not to vandalize.
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Protests in other cities across Brazil — including Rio de Janeiro and Brasília — also turned violent when local businesses, city buses and the US Consulate in Rio were vandalized.
Protesters came out on Brazil's Teachers' Day not only for their own right to quality education, but also in support of Rio's municipal and state teachers, who have been on strike since Aug. 8, demanding better working conditions and higher pay.