RIO DE JANEIRO — Hours before the Olympics Opening Ceremony, thousands of people took to the streets Friday to protest the current Brazilian government and the billions spent on the sporting event.
"We love sports in our city, but our city needs other things like better schools, better hospitals, free access to education," said Anna Barros, an English teacher in Rio. "We need to invest money in our people."
Barros was one of the thousands of supporters of Dilma Rousseff, the nation’s suspended president, who gathered in front of the luxurious Copacabana Palace, where some athletes and media are staying for the Games.
Earlier this year, Brazil’s senate suspended Rousseff over accusations that she hid a budget deficit in order to improve her re-election chances in 2014.
Michel Temer, Rousseff’s vice president, is currently serving as Brazil’s interim president. A final impeachment vote will be held after the Olympics and the support of two-thirds of the Senate is required to permanently remove Rousseff.
Protesters held signs and chanted "Fora Temer," "Temer Out." Rousseff’s supporters believe that her removal from office was a "coup" organized by Temer and his allies.
The protest remained peaceful, even festive at times with groups of people dancing to rally chants.
"It’s a very important event," said Vitor Guimaraes. "We hope the athletes have the best performance in their lives, but for us it’s a very bad moment to receive the Olympic Games because in Brazil everything is not okay."
Frequent protests have been the norm in Rio over the past few months as the political crisis has inflamed an already angry population, unhappy about the country's economic problems.
As the gathering around the Copacabana broke up Friday, there was a large security presence building 10 miles away outside the Maracana, the site of tonight's spectacle, and the location for another protest.