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Brazil 2014: Black Blocs to provide black mark?

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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

CNN —  

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.

“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.