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Clashes break out at Brazil public transport rally

Police have used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a violent demonstration in Sao Paulo over fare hikes. Some protesters started throwing rocks at security forces and caused damaged to banks and offices.

Riot police were deployed to disperse masked protesters in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on Friday after demonstrations against higher public transport fares turned ugly.

Local media said the protest in Sao Paulo, which drew about 3,000 people, started peacefully and remained so for most of the rally.

But the situation descended into violence when some of the young demonstrators threw stones and lit makeshift barricades made of trash and wood, a photographer from Agence France-Presse said.

Seventeen people were arrested after police fired tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon on the crowds.

But several protesters continued to attack buses and vandalized nearby buildings, including a bank, according to police. Protest organizers blamed anarchists for disrupting their peaceful demo with violence.

More fare hikes

On Saturday, public transport fares in Sao Paolo will rise the equivalent of seven cents to 3.80 reais ($0.94), which officials say is below the rate of inflation. But opponents claim the price hike is

unaffordable in a worsening economy.

In Rio, the price increase is slightly steeper.

"We want that the pressure from the streets, the pressure from the people, lowers this fare as it did last year. We will only talk to authorities when people are in the street; that's when we will talk to authorities, because the authorities are the ones who failed this state," said union leader Marcelo Schmidt, who joined the protest in Rio.

The rallies echoed

similar protests in June 2013,

again over rising public transport fares. Those demonstrations mushroomed into nationwide rallies against corruption, poor public services and the billions being spent to

host the 2014 World Cup

and the 2016 Olympics.

mm/ng (AP, AFP)

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