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Brazilian protesters take a break as more security hits the streets

By Ben Brumfield, Marilia Brocchetto and Shasta Darlington, CNN
updated 7:17 AM EDT, Thu June 20, 2013
  • NEW: State of Sao Paulo reverses bus fare hike
  • Main organizers say the protesters will take a break, but hit the streets again Thursday
  • Politicians have bent under the pressure, but protesters are not satisfied
  • "The money is there" for social programs, protest spokeswoman says

Are you witnessing the protests in Brazil? Share your images and videos with CNN iReport.

Sao Paulo, Brazil (CNN) -- After a chorus of cries for social justice echoed through the streets of Brazil for days, protesters called for a time out Wednesday. Despite the anticipated lull in street marches, the government will beef up security with the deployment of elite police officers and firefighters.

The protests, which started over a hike in bus fares, have had some effect.

On Wednesday, the state of Sao Paulo announced that the hike in bus fares would be reversed, state media reported.

In addition, a handful of states have passed laws to lower the price of a city bus ticket since protests began, and politicians elsewhere showed signs of bending to the public pressure, saying they may also notch fares back down.

Police fire rubber bullets at a protester during clashes in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, June 20. Demonstrations in Brazil began in response to plans to increase fares for the public transportation system but have broadened into wider protests over economic and social issues. Since then, both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have agreed to roll back prices on bus and metro tickets.
Police fire rubber bullets at a protester during clashes in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, June 20. Demonstrations in Brazil began in response to plans to increase fares for the public transportation system but have broadened into wider protests over economic and social issues. Since then, both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have agreed to roll back prices on bus and metro tickets.
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Read: Who does the World Cup benefit?

Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad had earlier warned that eliminating the fare hikes would mean less investment in other areas, but in the end erased the increases.

Not satisfied

Protesters say the poorest are being short-changed while the government spends the large bills on new stadiums and glitzy infrastructure for the soccer World Cup Brazil is hosting next year and the Olympic Games coming in 2016.

They complain that corruption is driving up the costs.

Read: 'The man who made a nation cry'

The country's investment in those projects includes money for health and public transportation, Deputy Sports Minister Luis Fernandes has said.

"There is absolutely nothing contradictory between organizing a World Cup and investing in health and education," he said.

But such assurances have not been enough for protesters, who will crank marches back up Thursday. Tens of thousands have confirmed online that they will take to the streets once more cry to out against high taxes and living costs, and for better health care and better education.

Bigger, more festive

Wednesday's day off is nothing out of the ordinary for Brazilian protesters, who also took Saturday and Sunday off. But it stands in glaring contrast to the loud, voluminous demonstrations that reverberated across several cities a day earlier.

Crowds originally protesting bus fares grew into multitudes decrying social injustice on Tuesday as broad avenues filled to capacity for blocks.

There were over 200,000 confirmed participants, according to the main organizer, the Free Fare Movement.

The protests come amid the soccer Confederations Cup tournament, a friendly array of matches, in which the host country, Brazil, plays against a small group of national teams from around the globe. The cup serves as a precursor to the World Cup.

The National Force, made up of specially trained firefighters and police officers, will deploy to states hosting the games, the Ministry of Justice said late Tuesday.

The government has stressed that the force's mission is to mediate and not repress.

Protests remain festive in Brazil
Tiny price hike triggers huge protests

Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, told peaceful protesters Tuesday that their message was being heard.

She praised them as active participants in democracy and said her government is committed to "social transformation."

Police for the most part stood back, and the atmosphere has grown festive and loud, with throngs singing and beating drums.

Are you there? Share photos or video, but stay safe

"It actually reminded me of Carnival in Rio," protester Fernando Jones said. "All along the avenue, people supporting the cause kept switching their lights on and off in their offices and shouting their support from the windows."

Path of rubble

But hidden in the peaceful multitudes were bands of rowdies, who kicked down doors and broke windows; looted shops, tipped over cars and set them on fire.

It left a trail of rubble down the protest routes.

Amandeep Gill woke up to the smoldering aftermath Tuesday morning.

The American, who lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, took video of smashed store fronts as he arrived at his workplace and posted it to CNN iReport.

Smoke rose out of looted shops. Across the street, a row of ATMs stood bashed, with their electronic guts hanging out.

His colleagues saw the trouble ignite the night before from their office window, they told him.

"They witnessed a car set on fire in front of our building," Gill said. "They told me they were worried that the building would catch on fire."

While asking police to back off from peaceful protesters, Dilma has condemned "isolated and minor acts of violence," telling police to confront them "with vigor."

Gill's colleagues in Rio won't let vandalism keep them off the streets.

Read: Brazil wins Confederations Cup opener

Shasta Darlington reported from Sao Paulo; Mariano Castillo wrote from Atlanta; CNN's Micheal Pearson, Marilia Brocchetto and Ben Brumfield also contributed to this report.

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