Summer Olympics 2016: Controversy Grows In Rio Over Political Protests : The Torch Brazil is in the midst of a political crisis, but protests at Olympic venues have been shut down. The government is expected to appeal a judge's ruling that it is illegal to remove protesters.

Controversy Grows In Rio Over Political Protests During Olympics

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Brazil's former president is facing impeachment, its interim president is just as unpopular, and political protest is making an appearance at the Olympics. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro tells us the organizers are doing what they can to silence it.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: As is traditional for the host country head of state, Interim President Michel Temer declared the games open.


INTERIM PRES MICHEL TEMER: (Speaking Portuguese).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But instead of cheers, the crowd erupted into boos. Music quickly swelled to mask the crowd's dislike of Temer. It turned out it was only the first of several protests inside Olympic venues. Posts on social media like this one...


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Speaking Portuguese).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Show people with tickets being forcibly removed by security, some for simply wearing shirts calling for Temer's ouster.


ALEXANDRE DE MORAES: (Speaking Portuguese).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Freedom of speech is enshrined in the constitution, but these kinds of political protests cannot disturb the games," Brazil's justice minister said in a press conference yesterday. "These events require extreme concentration and to have someone shouting is putting the games at risk." Of course, in most venues, people are shouting and chanting throughout the competition. And activists were also quick to note most of the protests were silent with people simply wearing shirts or holding up placards with slogans. Eloisa Machado de Almeida is a professor of human rights law at the Getulio Vargas Foundation.

ELOISA MACHADO DE ALMEIDA: (Speaking Portuguese).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She says, "the federal government and the Olympic Committee are acting unconstitutionally." A judge now agrees with her and ruled late last night that it's illegal for the IOC to remove protesters from its venues. The federal government is expected to appeal. So this matters for a bunch of reasons. First, this is a country with a long history of dictatorship where dissent was criminalized. Freedom of speech is a cherished right. And there's a wider context - every two years, there are Olympic Games.

VIDA BAJC: What we do know is that just about every Olympics has some kind of protest.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Vida Bajc is a sociologist and author of the book "Surveilling And Securing The Olympics: From Tokyo 1964 To London 2012 And Beyond." She says even if what prompts the protests is different, the reaction to them is almost always the same. I spoke to her via Skype.

BAJC: The organizers will do what it takes to prevent disruption because the disruption tends to take away from the legacy that the event is supposed to have. And so everything is done - whatever it takes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She says Brazil is turning out to be no exception. At protests outside the venues right before the games, the Brazilian police brutally cracked down on demonstrators, firing tear gas and rubber bullets. But she says Brazil isn't acting alone. Foreign intelligence services, international military advisers and trainers are all involved in securing the games, and their long-term impact is enormous.

BAJC: These people train local agents in particular strategies, using particular kinds of equipment.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They are here to help prevent a terrorist attack, for example, but those tactics, inevitably, she says, changed the way local law enforcement does its job.

BAJC: They may change the surveillance technologies that they've been using. They may change their approach to how they deal with the local population.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And she says that ends up being the more insidious legacy of securing the games, which could determine how protests are handled in Brazil long after the Olympic spotlight is gone. Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.

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