RIO DE JANEIRO - Disorder broke out in the shadow of Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium on Friday as riot police raided an old museum that authorities want razed ahead of the 2014 World Cup, but where a few indigenous people had squatted for years.
Officers in full riot gear stormed into the dilapidated complex just as a tense, hours-long standoff between the police and about two dozen Indians appeared near a peaceful conclusion.
The Indians had accepted the government’s offer to leave the compound in exchange for land on which to build a new settlement in northern Rio de Janeiro and most had already left the site when the officers charged in, prompting fury among the Indians’ supporters massed outside the building.
An elderly man in a feather headdress lay collapsed on the sidewalk after police pulled him kicking and screaming from the compound. Protesters and journalists were temporarily blinded after officers fired tear gas and pepper spray and detonated stun grenades in the thick of the crowd.
The Indian Museum has been at the center of a protracted legal battle over government plans to demolish it as part of renovations for soccer’s 2014 World Cup. The nearby Maracana stadium will host the tournament’s closing match, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics, and officials have said they intend to turn the area around the stadium into a new parking lot, commercial center and expanded stadium exits.
Indians from across Brazil regarded the site as a safe place to stay when they came to Rio to pursue an education, sell trinkets in the streets or get medical treatment, and dozens of people regularly cycled in and out.
(Written press article: Washington Post, March 22nd 2013)
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