Brazil 2014: Black Blocs to provide black mark?

Story highlights

  • Leading professor cautions that protest groups may target buses and hotels of World Cup teams
  • 'Black Bloc' groups have often been blamed when protests have turned violent
  • Coach Luis Felipe Scolari has previously said the protests may harm Brazil's World Cup hopes

It's not just fans traveling to the World Cup who should be worried about the looming demonstrations -- but the players too, says a leading researcher into one of Brazil's main protest groups.

Even though millions took to the streets to campaign against social injustice during the 2013 Confederations Cup, the protests at this month's finals are expected to be both bigger and more violent.

While the vast majority of demonstrators will do so peacefully, a hard core element will be represented by a group commonly referred to as the 'Black Blocs.'

Read: World Cup protests hit 18 Brazilian cities

Regularly clad in masks, balaclavas or bandannas, their behavior -- which often includes smashing windows, damaging buildings and committing arson -- has become common to Brazilians during the ongoing protests.

"The Black Blocs are low middle class youngsters who tend to follow an anarchist ideology, but they are more concerned about the problems of Brazil, such as poor education and public health," Professor Rafael Alcadipani told CNN.

Thousands protest in Brazil
Thousands protest in Brazil

    JUST WATCHED

    Thousands protest in Brazil

MUST WATCH

Thousands protest in Brazil 01:43
PLAY VIDEO
Neymar: Protests must be peaceful
Neymar: Protests must be peaceful

    JUST WATCHED

    Neymar: Protests must be peaceful

MUST WATCH

Neymar: Protests must be peaceful 00:28
PLAY VIDEO
Shocking video shows Brazil clashes
Shocking video shows Brazil clashes

    JUST WATCHED

    Shocking video shows Brazil clashes

MUST WATCH

Shocking video shows Brazil clashes 02:02
PLAY VIDEO
World Cup protests turn violent
World Cup protests turn violent

    JUST WATCHED

    World Cup protests turn violent

MUST WATCH

World Cup protests turn violent 00:48
PLAY VIDEO
 Brazil star's record breaking career
 Brazil star's record breaking career

    JUST WATCHED

    Brazil star's record breaking career

MUST WATCH

Brazil star's record breaking career 03:56
PLAY VIDEO

"Their main focus during the World Cup is to make trouble, and they will make strong protests.

"I think they will try to target the buses and hotels of delegations."

A February post on a Facebook page called 'Black Block Brasil' even lists the hotels that each team will use World Cup, which starts on June 12 and ends on July.

Like many Brazilians, the Black Blocs argue that the $11 billion spent on staging football's greatest event could have been spent on improving social areas such as health care, education and housing stock instead.

Although six people died during the Confederations Cup protests, which snowballed from a protest over a transport price rise in Sao Paulo to a nationwide movement against corruption and poor governance, they were seen as largely peaceful.

The expectations for next month are very different.

"For the Black Blocs, the massive demonstrations in June 2013 had no political answers, so the way of non-violent demonstrations is over," says Professor Esther Solano, who works at the Federal University of Sao Paulo.

Read: Can FBI stop Brazil's protestors?

Both Solano and Alcadipani, who works for a higher education institution called the Getulio Vargas Foundation, have been attending demonstrations to talk to Black Blocs members over the last year.

In March, CNN made approaches through Alcadipani to talk to some Black Blocs but our advances were rejected on the grounds that they wanted 'to have surprises for the World Cup' and that they did not want to 'publicize their actions.'

Although Black Bloc members are often referred to as a group, anarchists say the phrase actually refers to a tactic used to protest -- whereupon like-minded individuals come together in a set fashion.

"The flavor of the black bloc changes from action to action, but the main goals are to provide solidarity in the face of a repressive police state and to convey an anarchist critique of whatever is being protested that day," writes infoshop.org, which calls itself an online resource of news, opinion and information on anarchism.

What is being protested now is the same as last year of course -- namely, Brazil's social ills -- which have yet to be addressed, as even FIFA's General Secretary Jerome Valcke has freely admitted.

By contrast, his boss Sepp Blatter has countenanced that the World Cup has the power to silence the protests -- opining in April that "football is stronger than anybody, anybody and any other movement in the world" -- which is bluster at best and naivety at worst.

After all, Brazilian society will never have a better platform to air its grievances.

"The Black Blocs want to attract the attention of the international media because they want to share their sense of indignation, frustration and anger," Solano continued.

"They want the world to change its opinion about Brazil. For them, Brazil is not the country of football, samba or carnival, but a country with a lot of problems and social difficulties that need to change.

Rio de Janeiro's crack cocaine epidemic
Rio de Janeiro's crack cocaine epidemic

    JUST WATCHED

    Rio de Janeiro's crack cocaine epidemic

MUST WATCH

Rio de Janeiro's crack cocaine epidemic 03:06
PLAY VIDEO
Brazilians predict 2014 World Cup winner
Brazilians predict 2014 World Cup winner

    JUST WATCHED

    Brazilians predict 2014 World Cup winner

MUST WATCH

Brazilians predict 2014 World Cup winner 01:37
PLAY VIDEO
Discover the real Rio
Discover the real Rio

    JUST WATCHED

    Discover the real Rio

MUST WATCH

Discover the real Rio 07:46
PLAY VIDEO
Experience Rio like the locals
Experience Rio like the locals

    JUST WATCHED

    Experience Rio like the locals

MUST WATCH

Experience Rio like the locals 07:02
PLAY VIDEO
Rio's stunning ocean views
Rio's stunning ocean views

    JUST WATCHED

    Rio's stunning ocean views

MUST WATCH

Rio's stunning ocean views 07:35
PLAY VIDEO

"What they want is to call for a debate (on the future of Brazil). For them, symbolic violence is a legitimate way of political action.

"The argument they use is this: if the government does not care about the people, nor listen to their indignation and frustration, then the only way to provoke a debate is radicalization or violence."

The Black Blocs attracted widespread outrage after a cameraman died during a February protest in Rio de Janeiro, for which the Black Blocs were blamed -- rightly or wrongly.

"We do not know if the two young men arrested even knew what Black Bloc is or if they just joined the protest with their own idea of violence," said Solano. "But for the public, the Black Bloc as a whole was guilty of the tragedy."

Nor is there any sign of the government reaching out to these disillusioned Brazilians, a move which both professors believe could greatly diminish the threat of violent protests during the World Cup.

"The government should try to engage and negotiate with these people, yet they've just been using repression so far," said Alcadipani. "The difficulty is to try to talk to these youngsters.

"The Black Blocs' ability to provoke serious damage is not really that big but the point is that some of their demonstrations reach very high levels of tension with the Military Police," said Solano.

"If we want to minimize the risk, we have to start with mediation and negotiation, especially since the number of Black Blocs is such a small phenomenon. We are talking about dozens of people in Sao Paulo, which is nothing for a city of that size."

Solano feels part of the problem is that the police are still learning how to deal with such situations while politicians are hiding from the issue, afraid of compromising their chances in October's political elections by speaking out.

'Different Scenario'

Last year's protests caught officials from both FIFA and Brazil by surprise, prompting police in the latter to undergo intense training -- with assistance from the French in Rio and the FBI in Belo Horizonte.

With 57,000 members of the armed forces deployed specifically for the World Cup, Brazil will be better prepared to deal with a variety of protestors, some of whom were previously put off by the Black Blocs' aggressive strategy.

"People were afraid of going onto the streets during the 2013 demonstrations, but 2014 is a different scenario," Solano told CNN.

"Several social movements are preparing to protest against the World Cup and they will be side-by-side with the Black Blocs."

In April, Brazil's national coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was asked by a local television station if the mooted demonstrations might affect his players' chances of winning the World Cup.

"It could -- big time," he replied in typically unequivocal fashion.

That a country seen as football's spiritual home -- having provided some of the world's greatest players and a record number of World Cup wins -- and also as party-loving, friendly and hospitable may be on the verge of scoring a crucial own goal seems deeply ironic.

But then, with issues aplenty, Brazil 2014 may well be a tournament where the action inside the stadiums may be little match for the drama going on outside.

      Football Focus

    • French football great bids adieu

      After 20 years, more than 300 goals and a host of major honors, Thierry Henry has called time on his glittering football career.
    • Mario's 'Queen' tweet tops 2014 list

      He might be struggling to score goals for Liverpool, but Mario Balotelli's cheeky tweet about the British monarch hit the spot during the World Cup.
    • bpr south african soccor senzo meyiwa death _00000402.jpg

      Loss of a South African 'icon'

      Football world mourns South African captain Senzo Meyiwa who was shot and killed during a botched robbery in a township near Johannesburg.
    • German alleged jihadist Kreshnik B (R) listens to his lawyer Mutlu Guenal (L) as he arrives at the higher regional court in Frankfurt. His face is pixelated for legal reasons.

      From Jewish football to ISIS suspect

      Once part of Germany's largest Jewish sports club, now he's the first ISIS suspect to stand trial in a country left shocked by his alleged radicalization.
    • Where has 'Super' Mario gone?

      One goal in eight matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team -- Mario Balotelli has yet to shine on his English return.
    • Ched Evans smiles during the Wales training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against England on March 25, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales.

      Should rapist return to work?

      Should a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, be allowed to resume their old job? What if that job was as a high-profile football player?
    • Teen, 15, makes Euro history

      Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.