Rio De Janeiro, Brazi – Police clashed with thousands of firefighters who rallied to protest for better wages and working conditions on Friday June 3rd.
Around 2,000 firemen marched the streets of Rio’s downtown on Friday night and gathered outside the Fire Department headquarters blowing whistles and banging drums.
Protesters broke into the building and spent the night there, while officers tried to negotiate a truce in vain.
Fireman Benevenuto Daciolo, one of the protest’s organizers, said they wanted better compensation and benefits.
“We have the worst salary of the country, we are only asking for better compensation. We are asking for transportation benefits that we don’t have and a wage of 2,000 reais,” he said.
Firemen were demanding the raise of their wage of 950 reais (around 600 U.S. dollars) to 2,000 reais (1270 dollars) plus benefits.
Inside the fire department, protesters climbed atop fire trucks and used them to block the building’s entrances to avoid police from entering. They also forced officials who were on duty and had not joined the protest out of the patio.
Violence erupted early on Saturday June 4th, when anti-riot police moved in firing teargas canisters, pepper spray and rubber bullets at demonstrators who responded with violence.
Nearly 500 firefighters were arrested and taken to a police station with an internal affairs division as they could face charges of mutiny.
Police commander Mario Sergio Duarte said they faced resistance in the operation.
“The resistance was very strong and we had use strength, something that we wish we didn’t have to do. But we used it in the most moderate way as possible, and no one was injured.”
Rio state governor Sergio Cabral condemned the demonstration and called protesters vandals. He also assigned a new commander to Rio’s Fire Department.