Brasilia beefs up security after renewed threats of protest
Brazilian authorities beefed up security in the capital, Brasilia, on Wednesday, after supporters of former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro pledged new protests, just days after riots rocked the Brazilian capital.
The demonstrations, called to several cities on Wednesday night, were slow to get off the ground, however, as officers in riot gear and a helicopter left their thumbs up due to what was described as a large mobilization.
And AFP noted virtually no turnout in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, nothing like the “giant” march that promised to “take power back” from Bolsonaro’s successor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Law student Luis Augusto Gomez Machado, one of only two protesters in São Paulo, said he answered the call to “defend freedom of expression, which is a constitutional right”.
The 20-year-old said that although he was against Lula, he was against thousands of Bolsonaro supporters Sunday vandalizing the presidency, Congress and Supreme Court in Brasilia.
Eager to prevent a recurrence of Sunday’s riots, the authorities closed on Wednesday the roads leading to Ministries Square in the capital, in anticipation of renewed unrest.
The square houses all the government ministries as well as the three buildings targeted in Sunday’s violent uprising.
In a call posted on social media, Bolsonaro supporters were urged to turn out in Brasilia and other cities in a country deeply divided by October elections, in which left-wing Lula narrowly beat far-right Bolsonaro.
Since Bolsonaro’s defeat, his staunchest defenders have been calling for the military to stage a coup against Lula.
And on Sunday, hundreds of protesters in the yellow and green of the Brazilian flag — chosen by Bolsonaro and his backers as a symbol of nationalist fervor — stormed the symbolic seats of power.
Dubbed “fanatical fascists” by Lula, they clashed with police, beat journalists, and left a trail of destruction in their wake.
Hundreds have been arrested and Brasilia has been quiet since police on Monday arrested so-called “bolsonaristas” who had been staying in the capital since October.
According to a poll released Wednesday by Sao Paulo-based data firm Atlas Intelligence, nearly one in five Brazilians said they approve of the capital’s rampage on Sunday.
Deputy Justice Minister Ricardo Capelli told reporters that “all public security forces have been mobilized” to protect Brasilia from a repeat of the matter.
“There is no scenario in which the unacceptable events of the 8th (January) would be repeated.”
Lula Capelli was appointed to lead the security forces in Brasilia after Sunday’s riots.
In scenes strongly reminiscent of the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, “Bolsonaristas” tore down paintings and furniture, smashed windows, and stormed the offices of judges, lawmakers and the presidency itself.
The authorities are working to identify the organizers and financiers of the uprising.
Lula, who met with members of Congress in Brasilia on Wednesday, described the protesters as “a bunch of crazy people who don’t understand that the election is over.”
Earlier on Tuesday, authorities issued arrest warrants for two former top officials over the riots, including Anderson Torres, who was Bolsonaro’s justice minister.
He was sacked from his post as head of security in Brasilia, along with military police chief Fabio Augusto, after Sunday’s scenes.
While Augusto is reportedly already in custody, Torres is expected to arrive in Brazil soon from the United States.
Torres was charged with “dereliction” of his duties and “collusion” with the protesters.
Torres and Bolsonaro, who are also in the United States where he received medical care this week, have denied any involvement in Sunday’s events.
The security forces in Brasília have been criticized for their response to the riots.
Videos posted on social media showed some of them filming violence instead of intervening to stop it.
More than 600 of the 1,500 people arrested in the aftermath of the riots remained in detention on Tuesday.