Supporters of Bolsonaro who opposed the leftist Lula’s victory in the election tried to break through, marched up ramps, and gathered on the building’s roof.
Large numbers of followers of Brazil’s far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro stormed Congress, the presidential palace, and the Supreme Court on Sunday, in what President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called a “fascist” attack.
Bolsonaro reacted to the raids by condemning “plundering and encroachments” at the National Congress and the Presidential Palace.
A sea of protesters dressed in the flag’s green and yellow flooded into Brasilia’s seat of power, trying to invade the floor of Congress, trying to destroy the Supreme Court headquarters, and climb the ramp to the Planalto presidential palace.
The shocking images recalled an invasion of the US Capitol building by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, a Bolsonaro ally, on January 6, 2021.
Lula, who was visiting a flood-affected region in the southeastern city of Araraquara, signed a decree declaring a federal intervention in Brasilia, granting his government special powers to restore peace and order in the capital.
President Lula on the protest
“These fascist extremists have done something never seen in the history of the country,” said the veteran leftist, 77, who assumed office a week ago after defeating Bolsonaro in Brazil’s bitterly contested October elections.
“We’ll seek out who these vandals are, and they’ll face the full power of the law,” he added.
Hardline Since Lula narrowly defeated Bolsonaro in the October 30 election, Bolsonaro followers have been organizing protests outside army bases in Brazil, calling for a military intervention to prevent Lula from taking power.
A large crowd of protesters scaled the iconic Congress Building’s roof on Sunday to unfurl a banner reading “INTERVENTION,” an appeal to the military.
Rioters were seen breaking doors and windows to access the Congress building, then streaming inside in large numbers, trashing lawmakers’ offices and using the sloped speaker’s dais on the legislature floor access to the Congress building, then streaming inside in large numbers, dissing lawmakers’ offices and using the sloped speaker’s dais on the floor of the legislature as a slide while shouting insults at absent lawmakers.
A crowd outside was seen on video pulling a police officer from his horse and beating him to the ground.
Police, who had set up a security perimeter around Brasilia’s Three Powers Square, which is home to the quintessential modern architecture building structures of the National Congress, the Planalto, as well as the Supreme Court, fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse the rioters but were initially futile.
Security forces attempted to scatter the demonstrators using helicopter-fired tear gas bombs and riot police mounted on horses after failing to stop the invasion. However, the chaos persisted into the evening hours, with huge groups still assembled at the buildings.
According to a journalists’ union, at least 5 reporters were threatened, along with an AFP photojournalist who was beaten and had his device stolen.
Rioter Sarah Lima told AFP that they were calling for an investigation into the “fraudulent election.”
Lula managed to win the runoff by a slight margin of 50.9 % to 49.1 %. Bolsonaro, who left for the US Florida state on the second-to-last day of his term, has claimed he is the target of a conspiracy against him perpetrated by Brazil’s court system and electoral authorities.
“We need to reinstate order after the bogus election,” said Lima, a production engineer protesting with her young twin daughters while wearing the yellow jersey of the Brazilian football team, a symbol Bolsonaro followers have claimed as their own.
“I’m here for my daughters and for history,” she explained.
“It will not triumph,” he said on Twitter.
Flavio Dino, the freshly appointed Justice and Public Security Minister, described the invasion as “an absurd attempt to enforce (the protesters’) will by force.”
“The federal district government of (Brasilia) is sending reinforcements, and the forces present on the ground have been acting at this time,” said Flavio Dino.
World leaders on the protest
Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco said on Twitter that he “strongly dismisses this anti-democratic mass demonstration, which must be punished to the full extent of the law.”
The protesters were swiftly condemned internationally.
The US “denounces any attempt” to undermine democracy in Brazil, according to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, and President Joe Biden is “closely monitoring the situation.”
European Council President Charles Michel tweeted his “absolute condemnation,” French President Emmanuel Macron called for respect of Brazil’s institutions and sent Lula “France’s unwavering support,” as a raft of Latin American leaders joined in.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric described the riots as a “cowardly and vile attack on democracy,” while Colombia’s Gustavo Petro tweeted that “Fascism has decided to strike a blow,” and Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard expressed Mexico’s “complete support” for Lula.