Specialist police officers known as the “Tropa do Braço”, or Troop of Arms’ patrolled the latest demonstration – a 1,500-strong protest in central Sao Paulo – without weapons for the first time this weekend. Instead, the 140 officers were equipped with three months of martial arts training.
The tactic was reportedly inspired by French police who confronted violent protests in Paris in 2005.
“We want to use less aggressive resources,” Emerson Massera, a military police captain, told Ultimo Segundo. “We hope that physical force alone contains the most agitated protesters.”
In recent months, police and demonstrators have clashed violently in protests around Brazil.
The protest movement began last June over plans to increase bus fares at a time when millions of pounds were being invested in hosting this summer’s World Cup. The demonstrations have continued against high public spending and poor public services, with demands for better investment in health and education.