Demonstrators rallied against Brazil’s President Michel Temer in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on Sunday with signs reading “Temer Out” and “Election Now.”
Tens of thousands took to Paulista Avenue, one of Brazil’s busiest highways, to protest against the new government after Dilma Rousseff was impeached last week.
Police said demonstrations in Sao Paulo were initially peaceful but ended with authorities firing gas bombs, stun grenades, and water cannons after a group became violent at a subway station breaking turnstiles and throwing rocks at the anti-riot authorities.
Brazilians also gathered at the Copacabana promenade in Rio de Janeiro demanding the current president be removed and calling for new presidential elections.
But Temer, attending the G-20 Summit in China, has downplayed the protests.
“These are small groups… I don’t have it numerically, but they are 40, 50, 100 people. It’s nothing more than that. Out of 204 million Brazilians, I don’t think it means much,” he told media outlets during a news conference in China.
He also said protesters causing destruction would be punished.
“Causing destruction is a crime. That’s not a demonstration,” Temer said.
The opposition, however, rejected the president’s numbers.
“The coup president of Brazil said that our demonstration would have 40 people. Here are those 40 people—we’re already almost 100,000 on Paulista Avenue,” Guilherme Boulos, one of the event organizers, said.
Reports say it was the largest demonstration against Temer since he was sworn in as president for the remainder of Rousseff's term through 2018.
Rousseff, Brazil’s first woman president, told international media on Friday that she decried the process that led to her impeachment and promised strong opposition to Temer’s government.
The Brazilian Senate voted to remove Rousseff from the presidency for practicing pedaladas fiscais - the practice of using public money to fund state or federal social programs without the approval of Congress.
According to various reports, independent auditors did not find Rousseff involved in breaking fiscal responsibility laws. But many of those who voted for her impeachment are being investigated. Those senators deny any wrongdoing.
Two days after Rousseff’s impeachment, the new government signed legislation allowing for the amendment of an existing law addressing new rules for credit without Congress' approval.