Removal of protesters at Olympic events in Rio sparks fears of censorship

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 8 (UPI) — Politics and sports often collide at the Olympic Games, but what sparked some controversy in Brazil over the weekend isn’t often cited as a problem at the global sporting tournament.

Too much security?

Critics aren’t upset over excessive security measures, but rather took issue with where that security is being directed — at protesters.

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The outcry was fueled this weekend by the ouster of multiple protesters at various Olympic events in Rio de Janeiro, apparently for speaking out against interim Brazilian President Michel Temer.

At a women’s soccer match, several protesters were removed for wearing T-shirts that said, “Out with Temer,” while holding signs that read, “Come back democracy.” And at least one demonstrator was similarly expelled from an archery event.

Officials say Olympic regulations and Brazilian law bar all kinds of political demonstration at the games, and the removals are simply enforcing the statutes.

Brazil Secretaria de Comunicação Social/Twitter

Critics, though, say spectators are being censored.

“The Brazilian constitution guarantees freedom of thought and expression,” Rio attorney Fernando Fernandes said.

“This will only encourage new demonstrations,” Brazilian sports reporter Juca Kfouri said.

Since he assumed power in May, Temer has been wildly unpopular in Brazil — boasting a meager 14-point approval rating among Brazilians last month. His predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was suspended as she continues to be the subject of impeachment proceedings over a budget scandal.

One reason for Temer’s unpopularity involves allegedly illegal campaign finance operations that opponents say have helped the 75-year-old leader rise to the top of political chain in the influential South American nation.

Multiple other demonstrations have also centered on the Summer Olympics, even before they began. Protesters targeted the torch relay around Rio de Janeiro on its way to the stadium and a pair of demonstrations were held prior to the Opening Ceremony on Friday.

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