Captured on video, the scene appears quiet, dull even, until the very end, when the perspective shifts to reveal the plaza overrun by a sea of green and yellow clad rioters.
Just 600 feet away, as video of police inactive is posted on social media, officers from the Polícia Legislativa are battling the destructive mob that has taken control of Congress, social media posts and CCTV footage of the uprising in Brasília, obtained by The Washington Post shows.
A post-examination of more than 150 videos and images from Jan. 8 — including CCTV and body camera footage — reveals that rank-and-file PMDF members tasked with securing the streets around government buildings did little to stop the initial attack. The footage, synchronized chronologically by The Post, while not comprehensive, shows few, if any, regular members supporting other security forces in the early hours of their efforts to re-secure the government complex.
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Government officials were aware of the planned protest, which was widely promoted at least five days earlier on far-right social media outlets that supported former President Jair Bolsonaro. “Patriots from all over Brazil,” the reports said, should come and “bring Brasília to a standstill.”
The PMDF, which is generally responsible for day-to-day police surveillance in the Brazilian capital, initially deployed 365 regular officers on January 8. Polícia Legislativa, which protects the National Congress, and Policía Judicial, which protects the Supreme Court, both have less than 60 officers seconded. Members of the military, which oversees the forces protecting the presidential palace, can also be seen at various points in available footage. The military, PMDF and Força Nacional de Segurança Pública did not respond to The Post’s requests for comment.
At 2:33 p.m., protesters broke through a blockade of more than two dozen PMDF agents in 13 seconds about a mile from Three Powers Plaza, which is home to the Supreme Court, the National Congress and Planalto Palace, social media footage posted for the first time published by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo shows.
Satellite image ©2023 Google Earth
Satellite image ©2023 Google Earth
Satellite image ©2023 Google Earth
Ten minutes later, the crowd pushed past the last line of security forces along the Esplanada dos Ministérios, including some military personnel alongside PMDF officers, to gain direct access to the buildings at the heart of Brazil’s democracy.
Multiple analysts who viewed footage requested by The Post questioned the preparation of the PMDF, noting that the initial rank and file officers appeared to be unprepared for crowd control, as they were not wearing riot gear and only a small number appear to be have drawn up. of physical barriers. They said the PMDF are often better prepared and take more measures to control crowds at football matches.
Fernando Miramontes Forattini, co-founder of an investigative consortium focused on corruption in the global south, told The Post that PMDF agents monitor football match organizers and talk to them to understand attendance, erect the appropriate barricades and hold, body search, inspect the stadium for security breaches and make contingency plans.
Rioters rushed immediately after breaking the police line on the driveway leading to the National Congress building. Police officers from Polícia Legislativa braced themselves for a fight and scattered across the balcony. Unlike the PMDF and the handful of military personnel guarding the perimeter, these officers were equipped with riot gear and protective shields and armed with mob control ammunition.
At 2:44 p.m., just a minute after breaking through the last police line, CCTV footage from inside the building shows the rioters entering.
The Polícia legislature asked for support twice – once on the day before the riot and once on the day of – but was denied.
As people poured into the convention, part of the crowd split off and moved towards the Planalto Palace. Two groups of about a dozen officers, equipped with riot gear, retreated to the palace at around 3:05 p.m. with no additional troops visible in the available footage and footage.
At that point, the mob had overpowered units of at least three security forces that appear in videos and photos.
Yanilda González, a Harvard professor who focuses on policing and security in Latin America, told The Post authorities had plenty of warnings about how the day could go. It was “quite likely something of this magnitude would happen,” she said. “It’s very hard to say that anyone should have been caught off guard or that anyone was justified in being unprepared for this particular escalation.”
González noted that there was strong support for Bolsonaro among rank-and-file members of the military police across the country. Various forces, she said, have done more or less to police expressions of political support or political acts.
More than two dozen PMDF officers lingered near where rioters initially stormed into the square, video shows. While The Post could not independently verify the exact time it was filmed, the the overrun Congress Building is visible in the background, indicating that the riot was underway. Although some officers appear to be holding spray cans, they do not respond to the rioters and do not go to the building in danger.
The first time The Post learned that additional security forces were preparing to quell the riot was at 3:34 p.m., more than 30 minutes after both the Congress and Presidential Palace breached. From 3:05 p.m., when officers retreated to the palace until 3:34 p.m., few members of a security force were visible in the available footage.
Members of the Força Nacional, which was created to respond to security crises and includes officers and firefighters from all over Brazil, appear in a photo with less-than-lethal ammunition and dressed in riot gear. From January 7 to 9, four hundred officers of the Força Nacional were deployed to protect the city.
At the same time, thousands of people wreaked havoc in Brazil’s main government buildings. While some fought small groups of officers, many met little resistance, CCTV footage shows, as they smashed antiquities, vandalized offices and charged their phones.
About 20 minutes later, at 3:50 p.m., a photo verified by The Post shows PMDF officers huddled around a coconut water stand, looking unconcerned just over half a mile from the riot. In a video posted on social media at around 4:30 p.m. in the same grandstand, officers appear relaxed as they calmly point people toward government buildings.
Over the next hour, hundreds of additional security forces, including more units from the Brazilian Army and PMDF troops trained in riot control, arrived in full armor, with horses and heavily armored vehicles.
However, the increased presence outside did not immediately lead to security forces gaining more control. CCTV footage from the same era shows police officers of the Polícia Legislativa outnumbered in a losing battle with rioters in the Congress building.
At 5:55 p.m., more than three hours after rioters stormed Congress, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva declared federal intervention and sent 2,913 additional PMDF agents to Three Powers Plaza, 10 times the number initially on duty.
But by then the damage was done.
Anthony Faiola, Marina Dias and Alex Mirkhan in Brasília and Chloe Coleman in Washington contributed to this report.