RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Police unleashed waves of rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades on striking teachers in a southern Brazilian city Wednesday, leaving over 150 people injured.
The police said their action was ignited after a few of the protesters attempted to gain access to a state congressional building where legislators voted to make cuts to teachers' pension plans, but the authorities' action was widely criticized as heavy handed.
Live television images showed police firing the non-lethal weapons into tightly packed clusters of striking teachers after some protesters tried to break through police lines around the Parana state congressional building. Water cannons were also used to knock demonstrators back.
A statement on the Curitiba municipal government's website said at least 150 people were treated for injuries suffered in the melee. The state security secretariat said about 20 police officers were hurt. It was not yet clear how severe any of the injuries were in the action, which appeared to end by nightfall.
Curitiba mayor Gustavo Fruet called the scene a "war without precedent" in the city and labeled it a "tragedy foretold" that he blamed on the security forces, who are under the responsibility of the state government.
The statement on the municipal government's website said the city's unarmed municipal guard security officers had formed what was described as a security corridor that allowed the injured striking teachers to reach the city hall building to receive first aid.
The Parana state government, which controls the security forces that clashed with the teachers, said in a statement on its website that it "deeply regrets the acts of confrontation, aggression and vandalism caused this afternoon by protesters" not associated with the striking teachers.
It said masked protesters used stones, fireworks, sticks and iron rods to try to break through the police lines to invade the state congressional building and that they're "directly responsible for the confrontation."
The statement added that seven people had been arrested for attacking policemen.