RIO DE JANEIRO: Police and protesters fought in the streets into the early hours Friday as an estimated 1 million Brazilians swarmed through more than 80 Brazilian cities in the biggest demonstrations yet against a government viewed as corrupt at all levels and unresponsive to its people.
The President, Ms Dilma Rousseff called an emergency meeting of her top cabinet members for Friday morning, more than a week after the protests began. Ms Rousseff, who has a standoffish governing style, has been almost entirely absent from the public eye, making only one statement earlier in the week that peaceful protests are part of the democratic process.
But the protests that raged across Brazil late Thursday and into Friday were spiked with violence as people vented anger over a litany of complaints, from high taxes to corruption to rising prices.
At least one protester was killed in Sao Paulo state when a car rammed into a crowd of demonstrators, after the driver apparently became enraged about being unable to drive along a street.
In Rio de Janeiro, where an estimated 300,000 demonstrators poured into the seaside city's central area, running clashes played out between riot police and clusters of mostly young men with T-shirts wrapped around their faces. But peaceful protesters were caught up in the fray, too, as police fired tear gas canisters into their midst and at times indiscriminately used pepper spray.
Thundering booms echoed off stately colonial buildings as rubber bullets and gas were fired at fleeing crowds.
At least 40 people were injured in Rio, including protesters like Ms Michele Menezes, a wisp of a woman whose youthful face and braces belie her 26 years. Bleeding and with her hair singed from the explosion of a tear gas canister, she said she and others took refuge from the violence in an open bar, only to have a police officer toss the canister inside.
The blast ripped through Ms Menezes' jeans, tearing two coin-sized holes on the back of her thighs, and peppered her upper arm with a rash of small holes.
"I was leaving a peaceful protest and it's not the thugs that attack me but the police themselves," said Ms Menezes, removing her wire-rim glasses to wipe her bloodshot eyes.