RIO DE JANEIRO - Police launched tear gas and stun grenades Sunday to disperse some 300 anti-World Cup protestors who tried to march toward Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium shortly before the Argentina-Germany final. The demonstrators were protesting against police repression and the country's lackluster health care when authorities intervened, one day after 19 activists accused of vandalism were arrested.
At least one protestor was detained while mounted police were sent in to block the march. The protestors held banners reading "Free the prisoners, dictatorship never again" and "They call me Neymar and they take care of my health," referring to the football star's injury during the tournament. "The Cup is ending but the problems remain," Erin Morais de Melo, a prosthodontist disguised as Batman, said before riot police broke up the protest. "The central issue is the need to improve public services, our weak education system, health care and security," he said.
Brazil was hit by massive protests during last year's Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal to this year's event, denouncing the record $11 billion spent on the tournament and demanding better public services. But the protests have been much smaller during the World Cup, with police using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a small gathering before the June 12 opening game in Sao Paulo.