RIO DE JANEIRO – Thousands of demonstrators, most of them police officers and other public employees, occupied the legislature of the southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday to protest an austerity plan that includes salary cuts.
The protest began with a rally outside the seat of the unicameral Rio de Janeiro Legislative Assembly, but a group of demonstrators burst into the congressional building by force and occupied it for more than two hours before the building was cleared.
During the occupation of the building, some protesters vandalized windows, doors and some rooms.
The demonstration was organized to protest an austerity plan unveiled by Rio state Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao that would cut education and cultural spending and slash the salaries of public employees with the aim of getting the debt-ridden state’s finances in order.
Most of the demonstrators were police, firefighters and prison officials, who are among the employees most affected by the planned cuts and delays in the payment of salaries to the state’s public employees.
Rio de Janeiro state’s accounts were frozen on Monday because of its 170-million-reais ($52-million) debt with the national government.
The Legislative Assembly’s president, Jorge Picciani of the nationally ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement party, slammed Tuesday’s occupation as an affront to the democratic rule of law and said the action was “unprecedented in Brazil’s political history.”
He said charges would be filed against those responsible for the vandalism.