Graves dug on Copacabana Beach to symbolize Brazil's coronavirus dead

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Members of the Rio de Paz NGO dig mock graves on Copacabana Beach on June 11

Volunteers dug 100 graves on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro Thursday as a symbolic reminder of the thousands of Brazilians who have died from COVID-19, and also to denounce what they called the "incompetence" of public authorities handling the pandemic.

Ten rows of holes were dug in the sand in front of the iconic Copacabana Palace hotel, and dotted with black crosses decorated with small Brazilian flags.

"The objective is to protest against the succession of errors made by the federal government in handling the humanitarian crisis that Brazil is suffering," the NGO Rio de Paz, established to combat violence in the city, said on Twitter.

The visual effect is reminiscent of images from locations around the world where the coronavirus has hastened the digging of fresh graves -- particularly in the Amazonian city of Manaus in Brazil's north.

"Here we have reproduced, in this postcard Rio setting, what we see in our cemeteries," Antonio Carlos Costa, president of Rio de Paz, told AFP.

"We are here to demand a change of attitude from the president of the republic, who must understand that our nation is facing the most difficult moment in its history," he said. "This pandemic has exacerbated social injustices and the incompetence of public powers."

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the pandemic's scale, calling COVID-19 "a flu."

While Bolsonaro advocates for the resumption of economic activity, the virus continues to spread in the country, where almost 40,000 people have died and more than 770,000 have been infected, out of a population of over 210 million.

Back on Copacabana Beach, a Bolsonaro supporter tore up some of the crosses, while others insulted members of the NGO.

A video posted by Rio de Paz on Twitter shows a father whose 25-year-old son had died of coronavirus putting a cross back in place and shouting "respect our pain!"

Members of the Rio de Paz NGO dig mock graves on Copacabana Beach on June 11

Volunteers dug 100 graves in front of the iconic Copacabana Palace hotel

Almost 40,000 people have died in Brazil from the coronavirus

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had repeatedly downplayed the pandemic's scale