Protesters urging “Obama Go Home” staged a violent protest in Rio de Janiero Friday ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to Brazil. According to AFP, police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas to break up a demonstration outside the US consulate after protesters firebombed the building.
Some 300 people had gathered at the site when Brazilian Military Police showed up and tried to break up the demonstration.
Police cracked down on the crowd after protesters hurled a molotov cocktail at the consulate door, the O Globo newspaper reported on its website.
“I was in the center of the protest when people began to run and I heard shots,” said AFP photographer Vanderlei Almeida. “I had to get out of there because it was hard to breathe.”
Almeida was struck by two rubber bullets — one hit him in the leg, and the other in his stomach.
Several protesters were detained, Almeida said.
According to local news accounts, the demonstrations were organized by trade unions, political parties and social movement protesters.
Also on Friday, the White House announced that President Obama was canceling a public speech he’d planned to deliver in one of Rio’s historic squares. Instead, the president will deliver remarks at Rio’s Municipal Theatre, but it was not specified whether the event would be open to the public or exclusively for invited guests.
No explanation for the change of venue was given by the embassy. Brazilian authorities have laid out a heavy security presence for Obama’s two-day visit to South America’s largest nation, and police in Rio had closed numerous streets from midnight Thursday in preparation.
On Thursday, members of an advance US security team were seen inspecting the surroundings of Cinelandia, where anti-US banners could be seen hanging from a road-side fence.
Some social and union groups have declared Obama a “persona non grata” and called for a protest, accusing him of a “bellicose policy of occupation” in foreign countries, and of attacking people “in the name of the war on terror.”
After his visit in Brazil, Obama will head to Chile and El Salvador on a Latin American tour.