RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Police are debating whether to honor a pledge to cut the use of tear gas against demonstrators, a commander said Thursday after a small protest boiled over into rioting in one of Rio's wealthiest areas just days before a visit by Pope Francis.
Speaking at an emergency meeting of Rio de Janeiro state security officials, Col. Erir Ribeiro said the pact to limit the use of non-lethal arms during protests "didn't work out" in containing Wednesday night's violence and would have to be re-evaluated.
The pact came after widespread allegations that Rio police used non-lethal weapons like tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets excessively and indiscriminately during a wave of protests that has swept Brazil since last month.
The agreement was signed this week with Amnesty International's Brazil chapter and other groups. It was meant to be put into practice at a demonstration late Wednesday outside state Gov. Sergio Cabral's apartment on Leblon beach, one of the highest-rent neighborhoods in the country.
The protest, which drew about 600 people, degenerated into a chaotic scene of looting and destruction, with demonstrators smashing storefronts, defacing street signs and setting piles of garbage on fire.
Police responded with water cannons and dozens of percussion grenades. Photos from the clashes, which stretched late into the night, showed police also used tear gas, but it wasn't immediately clear whether the quantities deployed were as large as in previous demonstrations.