Teachers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, were attacked by police with tear gas and rubber bullets yesterday, as they tried to gain access to the city council meeting, which was voting on new pay and conditions for teachers. Many people in the densely populated downtown district had to take refuge in a nearby theatre, as police let off percussion grenades and other missiles.

As we reported yesterday, the primary teachers' dispute, which was in its 46th day yesterday, is about much more than pay and conditions, even though teachers earn little more than the minimum wage. The public school teachers serve the poor in Brazil, children of richer parents attend private schools. Now the public school education system in the country is being modelled more and more on neo-liberal lines. Teachers are bitterly opposed to this, as well as the long term underfunding of education. Despite failing to find enough money to fund public education properly, the government is spending billions to pay for the prestige World Cup and Olympic Games venues.

Meanwhile secondary teachers, who are controlled by the state rather than the municipality, have been on strike for 55 days. They marched from the seat of the state government, where they were demonstrating, to the city council yesterday, to support their primary colleagues.

Police have been criticised for the oppressive way they are dealing with the teachers. This is not the first time they have been attacked for their violent methods. Earlier this year there were mass demonstrations across Brazil against government corruption and spending cuts, which also met with police repression.