Violent protesters have brutally beaten a police officer and his horse to the ground with clubs as thousands of pro-Bolsonaro insurrectionists stormed the seats of power in Brazil to overturn the election.
Security forces arrested more than 400 right-wing rioters who stormed Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court in ugly scenes as they broke through police cordons, smashed up the government buildings and ransacked offices.
Tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons were deployed in a desperate bid to quell the unrest, in chilling echoes of the Capitol invasion by Donald Trump’s supporters on January 6, 2021.
Bolsonaro, branded the ‘Trump of the Tropics’ who lost the divisive October elections to the veteran leftist Lula da Silva, rejected his successor’s claims he incited the ‘fascist’ attack and defended the right to ‘peaceful protests’.
A Military Police officer falls from his horse during clashes with supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro
A sea of enraged rioters wearing the Brazilian football shirt and military-style camouflage descended on the Three Powers Square, invading the floor of Congress, trashing the Supreme Court building and climbing the ramp to the Planalto, hoping for the military to restore Bolsonaro or oust Lula.
The protesters broke doors and windows to enter Congress, then streamed inside en masse, trashing lawmakers’ offices and using the sloped speaker’s dais on the Senate floor as a slide as they shouted insults at absent lawmakers.
Protesters damaged artworks, historic objects, furniture and decorations as they ran riot through the buildings and hurled computers and printers to the ground, much like their US counterparts almost two years to the day.
They punctured a massive Emiliano Di Cavalcanti painting in five places, overturned the U-shaped table at which Supreme Court justices convene, ripped a door off one justice’s office and vandalized an iconic statue outside the court. The monumental buildings’ interiors were left in states of ruin.
Shocking footage also shows a police car tearing through the crowds at high speeds, as throngs of protesters flee screaming in terror.
Thousands of supporters of Brazil’s far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro broke through police barricades and stormed into Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court
A sea of enraged rioters wearing the Brazilian football shirt and military-style camouflage descended on the Three Powers Square
The crowd broke through the cordons of security forces and forced their way to the roof of the buildings of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate
Supporters of Brazil’s far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro invaded and defaced the country’s Congress, presidential palace and Supreme Court
The invaders left a trail of destruction, throwing furniture through the smashed windows of the presidential palace, flooding parts of Congress with a sprinkler system and ransacking ceremonial rooms
Supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrate against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
A police vehicle crashes into a fountain during the mayhem around the Brazilian seats of power
Security forces arrested more than 400 right-wing rioters who stormed Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court
Scores of protestors being led out of the National Congress building in handcuffs after being arrested by police
Newly emerged footage from the violent protests at the Brazilian capital showed a police car driving through crowds of demonstrators at dangerous speeds
Other scenes from the day’s chaos included a clip of a demonstrator apparently defecating on a desk inside a government chamber, and scores of protestors being led out of the National Congress building in handcuffs after being arrested by police.
Lula was only inaugurated a week ago and he has already been forced to declare emergency powers and deploy the national guard after 40 buses were seized to transport protesters to the seats of power in Brasilia.
Bolsonaro, who is believed to be in Florida, has repeatedly refused to accept his election defeat.
‘These fascist fanatics have done something never before seen in this country’s history,’ said Lula, 77. ‘We will find out who these vandals are, and they will be brought down with the full force of the law.’
Lula returned to Brasilia and viewed the damage at the presidential palace and the Supreme Court. He said he would work out of the palace on Monday despite all the destruction.
Justice Minister Flávio Dino said the acts amounted to terrorism and coup-mongering and that authorities have begun tracking those who paid for the buses.
Supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro vandalize the interior of Planalto Palace during a demonstration
The uprising, which lasted a little over three hours, underlined the severe polarisation that still grips the country
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva walks in Planalto Palace after it was stormed by Bolsonaro supporters
Lula announced a federal security intervention in Brasilia lasting until January 31 after capital security forces were initially overwhelmed by the invaders
Hours went by before control of the buildings on Brasilia’s vast Three Powers Square was reestablished, with hundreds of the participants arrested
Protesters wore the green and yellow colors of the national flag that also have come to symbolize the nation’s conservative movement and were adopted by Bolsonaro’s supporters
TV images showed police ushering Bolsonaro supporters in single file down the ramp from the Planalto presidential palace – the same ramp Lula climbed a week earlier at his inauguration.
Police, who had established a security cordon around the square, fired tear gas in a bid to disperse the rioters – initially to no avail.
A journalists’ union said at least five reporters were attacked, including an AFP photographer who was beaten by protesters and had his equipment stolen.
Hardline Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting outside army bases calling for a military intervention to stop Lula from taking power since his election win.
Lula’s government vowed to find and arrest those who planned and financed the attacks.
Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha fired the capital’s public security chief, Anderson Torres, who previously served as Bolsonaro’s justice minister.
The attorney general’s office said it had asked the Supreme Court to issue arrest warrants for Torres ‘and all other public officials responsible for acts and omissions’ leading to the unrest.
It also asked the high court to authorize the use of ‘all public security forces’ to take back federal buildings and disperse anti-government protests nationwide.
Protesters smashed their way into the buildings, smashing windows as they forced their way into the Congress building, the Supreme Court and presidential palace
Riot police confront supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro during Sunday’s violent protests
Supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro sit on the roof of the National Congress building on Sunday
Riot police stationed outside the Planalto Palace in Brazil on Sunday after protestors stormed the building
Demonstrators inside the Planalto Palace in Brazil on Sunday
Officers take away a protestor during the violent demonstrations in Brazil on Sunday
Angry demonstrators storm into the Planalto Palace in Brazil during the protest on Sunday
Protester Sarah Lima told AFP they were demanding a review of the ‘fraudulent election.’
Results from Brazil’s election – the closest in over three decades – were quickly recognised by politicians across the spectrum, including some Bolsonaro allies, as well as dozens of governments.
Lula narrowly won the runoff by a score of 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent. Bolsonaro, who left for the US state of Florida on the second-to-last day of his term, has alleged he is the victim of a conspiracy against him by Brazil’s courts and electoral authorities.
Brazilians have used electronic voting since 1996. Election security experts consider such systems less secure than hand-marked paper ballots because they leave no auditable paper trail.
Brazil’s system is, however, closely scrutinized and domestic authorities and international observers have never found evidence of it being exploited to commit fraud.
Still, Bolsonaro’s supporters refused to accept results in the past months. They have blocked roads and camped outside military buildings, urging the armed forces to intervene.
Protests were overwhelmingly peaceful, but isolated threats of terrorism – including a bomb found on a fuel truck headed to Brasilia’s airport – had prompted security concerns.
Police group together with riot shields as they engage with demonstrators at the Brazilian capital on Sunday
Riot police respond to the violent demonstrations against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the Brazilian capital Sunday
Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters at the nation’s capital on Sunday
Angry demonstrators streaming into Brazil’s National Congress building through broken windows on Sunday
Protestors swarming Brazil’s National Congress building during the violent protest on Sunday
An explosion of sparks flies during the protests against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil on Sunday
Two days before Lula’s Jan. 1 inauguration, Bolsonaro flew to the U.S. and took up temporary residence in Orlando.
Many Brazilians expressed relief that, while he declined to participate in the transition of power, his absence allowed it to occur without incident.
Or so it had been, until Sunday’s havoc.
‘Bolsonarism mimics the same strategies as Trumpism. Our Jan. 8 – an unprecedented manifestation in Brazilian politics – is clearly copied from Jan. 6 in the Capitol,’ said Paulo Calmon, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia. ‘Today’s sad episodes represent yet another attempt to destabilize democracy and demonstrate that the authoritarian, populist radicalism of Brazil’s extreme right remains active under the command of former President Bolsonaro, the `Trump of Latin America.”
U.S. President Joe Biden tweeted that the riots were an ‘assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil,’ and that he looked forward to continue working with Lula.
In a news conference from Sao Paulo state, Lula read a freshly signed decree for the federal government to assume control of security in the federal district.
He said that the so-called ‘fascist fanatics,’ as well as those who financed their activities, must be punished, and also accused Bolsonaro of encouraging their uprising.
A supporter of former President Jair Bolsonaro is dragged away by police during the violent protests in Brazil Sunday
Broken glass at Brazil’s National Congress building from the chaos of Sunday’s protests. Police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators
Police and protestors are clashing in the streets outside of the government buildings after weeks of anger towards newly inaugurated President da Silva
Lula’s Workers Party asked the office of the top public prosecutor to order public security forces to act in containing the demonstrators
Bolsonaro left Brazil for Florida 48 hours before the end of his mandate – repeatedly questioned, without evidence, the credibility of the country’s electronic voting system
Bolsonaro repudiated the president’s accusation late Sunday. Writing on Twitter, he said peaceful protest is part of democracy, but vandalism and invasion of public buildings are ‘exceptions to the rule.’ He made no specific mention of the protesters’ actions in Brasilia.
‘He is evidently the intellectual mentor of what is happening, so he cannot dissociate from it,’ said Mario Sérgio Lima, political analyst at Medley Advisors. ‘These groups were created by him, by the radicalism he imposed on politics. There is no way to undo that. … It seems his group has already crossed the Rubicon.’
Unlike the 2021 attack in the U.S., few officials would have been working in the top government buildings on a Sunday. And videos showed limited presence of the capital’s military police.
That led many in Brazil to question whether the police had ignored abundant warnings, underestimated their abilities or had been somehow complicit.
‘I’m here for history, for my daughters,’ said Lima, 27, wearing the yellow jersey of the Brazilian national football team – a symbol Bolsonaro backers have claimed as their own – and protesting with her young twin daughters.
Fellow protester Rogerio Souza Marcos said the elections had been plagued by ‘multiple signs of fraud and corruption.’
Newly installed Justice and Public Security Minister Flavio Dino called the invasion ‘an absurd attempt to impose (the protesters’) will by force.’
‘It will not prevail,’ he wrote on Twitter.
There was swift international condemnation of the protesters.
The United Nations said it ‘vehemently condemns’ the attacks.
US President Joe Biden slammed the scenes as ‘outrageous,’ European Council President Charles Michel tweeted his ‘absolute condemnation,’ and French President Emmanuel Macron called for respect for Brazil’s institutions and sent Lula ‘France’s unwavering support.’
Even Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni condemned the riots.
A raft of Latin American leaders joined in, with Chilean President Gabriel Boric denouncing a ‘cowardly and vile attack on democracy’ and Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador calling it a ‘reprehensible coup attempt.’