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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Brazil indigenous protest over land rights turns violent, police fire te...

Indigenous people and police clashed near the congressional building in Brazil's capital city on April 25 during a protest against farmers' encroachment on reservations. Officers fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters, whose bodies were painted and dressed in colourful headdresses, while some tribe members shot arrows in return.

The demonstration was peaceful until police blocked some of the indigenous people from climbing a ramp that led into the congressional building, according to a Reuters photographer on the scene.The clashes ended around dusk. Some indigenous people suffered light injuries. There was no immediate word whether any officers were hurt.

Dozens of indigenous people are killed each year in Brazil in fights with farmers and ranchers over land, often in the relatively lawless Amazon region, where hired gunmen have been used to push the indigenous off resource-rich reserves. Sonia Guajajara, a coordinator for the march, said some 4,000 indigenous people and supporters took part in the protest.

The demonstration focused on legislation that would give the last word on deciding land boundaries for indigenous reservations to Congress, where a powerful farm lobby holds sway. Currently, Brazil's president retains the power to set such boundaries. Guajajara said they carried coffins to symbolize indigenous who have died because of clashes over disputed land.

A police spokesman said the marchers went beyond the agreed point and invaded congressional grounds, requiring the use of force to keep them from entering the building. He said an arrow struck a police bag but no officers were hurt.