Sao Paulo: Scores of black and leftist militants staged a boisterous rally here Saturday to protest attempts to bar underprivileged youths from shopping malls in middle-class areas.
An estimated 150 protesters, waving banners proclaiming "Enough with apartheid" and "End the genocide of Black people" massed outside the JK Iguatemi shopping mall and demanded to be let in.
The political protest was called in support of the so-called "rolezinhos," mall gatherings of hundreds of low-income teens that have at times degenerated into disturbances and store looting.
Ahead of the crowd`s arrival, security was bolstered at the JK Iguatemi mall and the management decided to close it down.
The angry demonstrators unfurled a banner proclaiming "In the World Cup country, racist malls deny entry to black and poor people."
The World Cup is to kick off in Sao Paulo on June 12.
"They are denying us the constitutional right to enter any commercial space," Douglas Melchior, an activist of the UNEafro black civil rights group, told AFP.
"We are going to take legal action to reverse this violation of the constitution."
The protesters also denounced "police assassinations of black youths" in the country`s slums.
In a statement, the JK IGuatemi management said it decided to temporarily close the mall "to guarantee the security of its clients, store owners and collaborators."
It added that while it respected "democratic and peaceful demonstrations, the mall`s premises and activities are not adequate for any type of demonstration."
A week ago, the mall secured a court injunction to block a rolezinho.
Police also used tear gas and rubber bullets last Saturday to disperse 1,000 teenagers taking part in a similar flash mob in an eastern Sao Paulo shopping center, according to videos taped by the participants and posted on social media networks.
Joselicino Junias, a member of the anti-racism organization Circulo Palmarino, said the rolezinhos or flash mobs aimed to challenge the "fundamentally racist, segregationist nature" of Brazilian society.
They also seek to touch off a debate over "the urgent need for the state to provide recreational and cultural activities for underprivileged youths," he added.
Several local shopping centers have secured court injunctions to deny entry to troublemakers but they deny charges of discrimination and racial profiling.
Sao Paulo state governor Geraldo Alckmin insisted that the rolezinhos, which are coordinated via social media, are not illegal.
But he vowed that police would intervene if the gatherings degenerated into violence and vandalism.
Local officials, meanwhile, are trying to arrange meetings with both sides to defuse tension and work out an acceptable compromise.
Late Thursday, the Shopping Jardim Sul in southern Sao Paulo was evacuated and security beefed up after 200 militants of the Homeless Workers` Movement rallied outside in support of the rolezinhos.
More rolezinhos are being planned in Sao Paulo and other Brazilian cities, including one calling thousands of youths to go to Shopping Leblon, in Rio`s posh southern zone, on Sunday.