Brazil Protests 2013: Shocking Photo Shows Riot Police Pepper-Spraying Innocent Bystander


Government corruption, poor public services, economic instability, and police brutality have brought hundreds of thousand of Brazilians to the streets. Police have used batons and tear gas to disperse the growing protests, including in Rio de Janeiro, where a single gathering on Monday evening counted over 100,000 people.

The above picture was taken at that gathering.

While some claim that the police officer pictured here is spraying the woman pictured with a cooling agent that "actually helps to calm the effects of pepper spray," the AP caption reads: "A military police [officer] pepper sprays a protester during a demonstration in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, June 17, 2013."

The photographer, Victor Calvano, says that the ordinary woman was standing alone on a relatively peaceful corner after the protest had been cleared, and after refusing to leave, she was pepper-sprayed.

As PolicyMic pundit Taylor Hom explains, "An estimated 200,000 protesters filled the streets of Brazil's largest cities on Monday, showing endurance behind a recent movement that mushroomed from small protests against rising transportation costs."

"Similar to Turkey, protests intensified last weeks after a police stunned citizens with a harsh crackdown. Videos and images from local media organization stirred anger as evidence of police brutality went viral. Police brutality is described in a video viewed nearly 1.5 million times on YouTube, narrated by a reporter from the local newspaper who was shot in the eye by police. Images from protesters and journalists show police firing rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds as well as beating unarmed demonstrators with batons."

Unlike in Turkey, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has applauded the protests demanding better education, schools and transport, saying, "My government is listening to the voices calling for change."

The picture is reminiscent of other peaceful protests where the inappropriate use of pepper spray led to an aggravation in tensions with police. Pictured below are two such instances, in Turkey and UC-David respectively.