RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Clashes broke out in Rio de Janeiro’s busy downtown business district Tuesday as police skirmished with striking schoolteachers.
Teachers pressing for better pay had gathered in front of City Hall, where a vote on Mayor Eduardo Paes’ salary proposal was expected. The strikers oppose the proposal, which they say doesn’t go far enough to addressing their demands.
Chaos broke out in late afternoon when police officers set off deafening percussion grenades and fired rubber bullets in this densely frequented commercial district. Some main thoroughfares were closed, snarling traffic.
As the percussion grenades exploded outside, several dozen people took shelter in the stately Odeon movie theater, which is hosting red carpet events for the Rio Film Festival. Festival officials had said the screenings slated to take place at the Odeon on Tuesday night would be postponed and moved to another theater.
On Monday night, a skirmish between riot police and protesters sent hundreds of festival-goers who had just emerged from the evening’s gala screening racing back into the theater to wait out the street skirmishes.
Negotiations between the city and the teachers’ unions have been acrimonious, and Tuesday was the strike’s 46th day. Teachers opposed to the mayor’s pay proposal have invaded City Hall trying to disrupt proceedings and police have repeatedly sprayed strikers with clouds of tear gas, rubber bullets and percussion grenades.
Rio’s police forces have come under criticism in recent months for their forceful responses to a series of street protests that have swept the city since June, when small demonstrations against a subway and bus fare hike in Sao Paulo snowballed into a nationwide movement. The head of the military police was replaced, but allegations of police brutality against demonstrators have persisted under his successor.