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Off The Pitch, Brazilians Mark A More Political Clash


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. With all of the action unfolding in the stadiums right now in Brazil, it may be easy to forget where the action was a year ago. At that time, it was in the streets. Massive protests broke out. A million people took part. Well, the anniversary was marked today by another demonstration. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro was at the event and reports on what's changed in Brazil in the last year and what hasn't.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: I'm on Avenida Paulista in Sao Paulo, and a year ago this road - it's the sort of Wall Street of this city - was packed with people. At its height, over a million Brazilians joined the demonstrations that swept the country. They initially started over a hike in a bus fare, and then when pictures of harsh police repression were broadcast, it brought many more people out onto the streets. Today in front of me, there are only a few hundred protesters, much smaller demonstrations than before. The people here are dedicated protesters - the hard-core if you will. So where did all the support go?

LUISA DE MORAIS SARMENTO: Everybody was really excited about - was the first time in years that this kind of moment happened. It was a new generation in the streets, I think, with new thoughts and stuff. Everybody singing, everybody screaming - it was really good.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Luisa de Morais Sarmento is an 18-year-old student we met at a cafe off Avenida Paulista, where a year ago, she and all of her friends came out, they thought, to change the country. Now it's a year later, and she's not joining the demonstrations anymore.

SARMENTO: I stopped participating because everything started to be so violent, and people stopped to go to the streets, too.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The protests that began in June 2013 started to lose steam in Brazil fairly quickly. They were met with increasing police repression; also a group known as the Black Bloc, who are anarchists, began to get violently involved. So she says many others like her were turned off by the whole thing. But that doesn't mean the legacy of those protests has been lost, say analysts.

DENISE PAIERO: (Portuguese spoken).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Denise Paiero is a professor at McKenzie University who has studied the protests. She says Brazilians have taken back the streets, and that's significant. They had given up their place in public spaces for decades. But now Brazilians think they can take to the street. It's there, and it's a place where I can make demands, she says. They've become more politically active, more aware of politics, she says.

RAFAEL ALCADIPANIL: Yes, I am Rafael Alcadipanil, associate professor on organizations. When the demonstrations erupt in the country, people start to realize again that we a lot of problems to face.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that put the political class on notice, he says. And in the short term, he says, the protests prompted a change in specific laws regarding corruption, for example. And there was a boost in spending for education and health. But by and large, not that much has shifted in the big picture.

ALCADIPANIL: Brazil now, at this particular moment in time, it’s faced with people who want change, but they don't see anybody who will deliver the change in terms of politics.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What we see now, he says, are many smaller demonstrations. The groups have fragmented. The demands are more narrowly focused and because of that, we've seen them actually achieve results, especially in advance of the World Cup. Bus drivers got raises. Homeless groups got housing promises. But there are still many issues that need to be addressed, he says, for example, how the security forces are dealing with this new wave of civil unrest.

ALCADIPANIL: People started to demonstrate and to talk against the military police because the way they act is unacceptable for a democracy.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: His verdict - the protests were a first step whose long-term effect remains to be seen. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Sao Paulo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.