Photo Of Police Pepper Spraying Woman In Brazil Becomes The Defining Image Of The Latest Emerging Market To See Mass Protests

Brazil is currently gripped by its largest protests in 20 years — about 200,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Brazil’s biggest cities on Monday — driven by public frustration over poor public services, police violence, economic instability, and government corruption. 

The turmoil, which has been simmering for months, arises as the country hosts the Confederations Cup soccer tournament (i.e. the preliminary for next year’s World Cup) and prepares for next month’s papal visit.

Images being shared on social media that show police beating unarmed protesters with batons, in addition to dispersing crowds with rubber bullets and tear gas, have only caused the protests to expand.

This terrifying event happened in Rio de Janeiro, where local police said 100,000 people had gathered on Monday evening. It seems that most dangerous thing the woman is carrying is a cigarette.

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As we saw in Turkey, a single photo of a protester being sprayed with tear gas at point blank range can galvanize a movement instead of quashing it.

Here’s a picture of the streets of Rio (there’s a Vine too):

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Here’s how Todd Benson and Asher Levine of Reuters, reporting from Sao Paulo (where 65,000 people gathered on Monday), described the overall situation:

Contrasting the billions in taxpayer money spent on new stadiums with the shoddy state of Brazil’s public services, protesters are using the Confederation’s Cup as a counterpoint to amplify their concerns. The tournament got off to shaky start this weekend when police clashed with demonstrators outside stadiums at the opening matches in Brasilia and Rio.

“For many years the government has been feeding corruption. People are demonstrating against the system,” said Graciela Caçador, a 28-year-old saleswoman protesting in Sao Paulo. “They spent billions of dollars building stadiums and nothing on education and health.”

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