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Rio police commander condemns beating of Canadian doc maker

The commander of Rio de Janeiro's state military police has condemned the behaviour of officers who beat up a Toronto filmmaker as he tried to record a World Cup protest on Sunday.

Video images of the incident, which occurred just before the World Cup final, showed officers hitting Ryerson University graduate Jason O'Hara with their batons. After Mr. O'Hara, who was wearing a helmet and a gas mask, slumped down on the sidewalk, one officer then swung his foot at the Canadian's head.

Vladimir Seixas

Colonel Luiz Castro, the head of the Rio military police, disapproves of such tactics, which are "not what we teach in the police academy," a spokesman told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday.

"The colonel was not only concerned, he was angry with that behaviour," Gustavo de Almeida, a spokesman for the Polícia Militar do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, said in an e-mail.

He said an investigation was launched on Monday to identify and punish the officer. The internal affairs section of the police is also probing other violent incidents that took place during the protests, he added.

Military police used tear gas to disperse the protest, which took at Saens Pena plaza, south of Maracana Stadium, where Germany faced Argentina that afternoon.

Translation from 0:57:
Man filming: How are you doing, Jay?
Jason O'Hara: I'm fine, but I was robbed by a policeman. My GoPro, he grabbed it and now I'm without my GoPro. I was robbed by the police. The police are supposed to be here to help me, but they robbed me.

Mr. O'Hara, who needed stitches on a shin where the bone was exposed, said police stole one of his cameras, apparently in an attempt to remove evidence of the violence.

While he agreed to talk to reporters about the attack, he underlined that it was part of a broader pattern of social disruptions created by Brazil's decision to host the World Cup. "I've seen egregious violence perpetrated unprovoked many times before," he said in a telephone interview on Monday.

Mr. O'Hara has been videotaping the protests for a documentary about poor people being evicted from their communities because Brazil was staging the World Cup and will be the host of the Summer Olympics in two years.

Human Rights Watch, which has in the past criticized Brazilian police for acts of violence and extrajudicial executions, has called on the country's authorities to investigate allegations of excessive force by officers against journalists and protesters during the World Cup.

Canadian documentary filmmaker Jason O'Hara is treated in Rio de Janeiro after what he describes as an unprovoked attack by Rio riot police. Bernardo Guerreiro/Midia Ninja Collective

While protests during the soccer tournament were relatively small, massive marches unfolded previously as people demonstrated against organizing major sports events while the country struggled to deal with corruption, a rising cost of living and poor public transport.

Most urban law enforcement in Brazil is handled by state military police, who are used to harsh tactics. Last month, a spokesman for the Rio de Janeiro state military police told The Globe that its officers would be taught how to handle large-scale crowd control and make progressive use of force.

Portuguese translation, Tom Cardoso/The Globe and Mail

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