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'Unprovoked' police beating sends Canadian doc maker to Rio hospital

Video footage from Rio de Janeiro show how a Toronto filmmaker documenting anti-World Cup protests was beaten Sunday by Brazilian military police, who struck him with their nightsticks and kicked him while he was on the ground.

The incident, which occurred just before Sunday's World Cup final game, was captured on one video, showing Jason O'Hara, wearing a helmet and a gas mask and sitting on a sidewalk when one officer walked by and, cocking his leg, aimed his foot at Mr. O'Hara's head.

Vladimir Seixas

In another video, shot by BBC Brazil, Mr. O'Hara is briefly seen at a street corner, bending down near a shuttered store while officers hit his back with T-shaped batons.

In a telephone interview from Rio, Mr. O'Hara, a Ryerson University graduate, said he was filming a protest that unfolded about an hour before Germany and Argentina faced off in the World Cup final.

He said he was taken to hospital for X-ray scans to an arm and leg. There were no fractures but one shin bone was exposed and required stitches.

"I've been documenting protests over the last year. I wasn't all that surprised," he said. "Though I haven't had an experience like this before, I've seen egregious violence perpetrated unprovoked many times before."

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.


There were about 100 demonstrators around Saens Pena plaza, a few blocks south of Maracanã Stadium, when military police fired tear gases to disperse the crowd.

Mr. O'Hara said he was leaning against a wall to change the memory card of one of his video cameras when a group of riot squad officers attacked him. His main camera was smashed by batons. An officer ripped off a smaller camera he had mounted on his helmet, in what appeared to be an attempt to remove evidence of the beating.

"The incident was entirely unprovoked. I can only describe [it] as a gang beating by the police, mostly batons but then kicking me once I fell to the ground," Mr. O'Hara said in an e-mail.

According to a BBC report, 10 journalists were injured in the incident.

Mr. O'Hara had been videotaping the protests since early June, for a documentary about forced community evictions related to the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, which will also be hosted in Rio.

While he appreciated the attention his encounter with police might generate, "people are getting killed every day in the favelas," he noted.

He said the World Cup has been a "spectacle event catered for the international tourists while poorer Brazilians continue to suffer."

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

Portuguese translation, Tom Cardoso/The Globe and Mail

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