Rio Olympics organizers threw their weight behind a police crackdown on Brazilians holding up signs in stadiums against unpopular interim president Michel Temer, despite accusations of censorship.
“We are alerting the public that these kinds of manifestations are not allowed inside the venues,” Rio 2016 organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada told journalists on Sunday.
In multiple incidents since the Games opened Friday, police have confiscated small signs featuring the words “fora Temer,” Portuguese for “out with Temer.”
Some cases involve no more than a sheet of paper displayed in silence until police intervene.
Sometimes the slogan pops up on a placard held behind television news reporters as they film from the street.
One man participating in the Olympic torch relay last week painted the words on his buttocks, which he revealed by pulling down his shorts.
Other times people shout “fora Temer” — a cry that erupted en masse at Friday’s ceremony in the Maracana stadium when the interim president declared in a speech lasting just a few seconds that the Games were open.
Temer, the former vice president, took over in May from elected president Dilma Rousseff when she was suspended for an impeachment trial.
She faces being removed permanently from office just days after the Olympics if convicted of breaking budgetary laws.
With the political crisis close to climax, organizers have been unable to prevent tensions spilling over into the Olympics.
In a creative version of the anti-Temer movement, a group of people at a US-France women’s football game in Belo Horizonte on Saturday sat in a row with T-shirts that together spelled out “fora Temer.”
They were expelled from the stadium, Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported.
Another incident posted online that has got almost two million views shows four burly officers from an elite branch of the police surrounding and eventually taking a protester from his seat.
The zero tolerance policy for the peaceful protests has provoked outrage on the left and calls for more protests.
“It’s unbelievable! Expressing an opinion now gets you in prison!” said Senator Gleisi Hoffmann, from Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party. “We’re going back in time,” she said in a Facebook post.
However, Olympic officials said Sunday that political slogans are banned from stadiums in line with the International Olympic Committee charter which says “no kind of demonstration” is allowed.
“The persons that are protesting politically in venues are requested not to do that and if they do that, they are asked to leave. This is a temple for sport and we need to focus on that,” Andrada said.
“Obviously, protests outside the venues are free provided they are not violent.”
As criticism mounted, the Justice Ministry issued a statement saying that the rules forbid spectators from bringing any “item that could harm the competition” and that this includes “any item with a political, religious, racist, discriminatory, defamatory or xenophobic message.”
Apparently referring to the case of a man ejected for shouting “fora Temer” at a shooting contest, the ministry said he was “disturbing athletes and other fans.”
Since becoming interim president, Temer has brought in a new government that has moved Brazil sharply to the right from Rousseff’s leftist platform.
If she is ejected, he will retain the presidency until 2018.
Rousseff and her supporters claim Temer engineered the impeachment procedure in a parliamentary coup.
Polls show both Rousseff is deeply unpopular and Temer only slightly less so.
The crisis, added to the most painful recession in decades, is creating an angry backdrop for an Olympics that had been billed as Brazil’s coming out party when Rio was awarded the Games back in 2009.
“Brazilians are very dissatisfied,” Fabiana Amaral, 32, said as she visited the Olympic flame burning in a redeveloped pedestrian area of central Rio.
“Whoever was sitting up there (during the opening ceremony) would have been booed. If it had been Dilma, not Temer, it would have been worse. It was a chance to show our anger,” Amaral, an architect, said.