Brazilian police recapture key government buildings from far-right rioters
Brazilian security forces recaptured Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court on Sunday after a flood of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the seat of power, unleashing chaos in the capital.
In scenes reminiscent of the January 6, 2021 invasion of the US Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, overwhelmed security forces initially used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons to push back rioters who ran through the corridors of power. in Brasilia until they were finally subdued.
Newly installed President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a veteran leftist who narrowly won Brazil’s bitter and divisive elections, has condemned the invasions as a “fascist” attack.
Meanwhile, the far-right Bolsonaro condemned the “looting and sweeping of public buildings” in a tweet. But the politician dubbed “Tropical Trump” rejected Lula’s claim that he incited the attacks, defending the right to “peaceful protests.”
Lula, who was in the southeastern city of Araraquara visiting an area hit by severe flooding, signed a decree announcing federal intervention in Brasilia, giving his government special powers over the local police force to restore law and order in the capital.
“These fascist fanatics have done something unprecedented in the history of this country,” said the veteran leftist, 77, who took office a week ago.
We will find out who these vandals are, and they will be brought down with the full force of the law.
Brazil’s TV Globo reported that the president then returned to Brasilia to tour the looted buildings and oversee the response.
According to media reports, the police arrested 170 people.
Television footage showed police leading Bolsonaro supporters down the ramp from the presidential Planalto Palace in single file – the same ramp that Lula climbed a week earlier at his inauguration.
The Senate Security Service said it arrested 30 people in the room.
The dismissal of the head of security in Brasilia
The chaos came after a sea of protesters dressed in military camouflage and doused the green and yellow flag in Brasília’s Three Powers Square swept through the congressional grounds, destroying the Supreme Court building and scrambling up the ramp to Planalto.
Footage on social media showed rioters breaking down doors and windows to enter the Capitol, then pouring inside en masse, destroying Representatives’ offices and using the sloping speaker’s stand on the Senate floor as a sled while shouting insults directed at absent lawmakers.
According to Brazilian media reports, protesters damaged works of art, historical objects, furniture, and decorations while rioting in buildings.
One video showed a crowd outside pulling a policeman off his horse and slamming him to the ground.
Police, who had set up a security cordon around the square, fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse the rioters – initially to no avail.
The Journalists Syndicate said at least five journalists were attacked, including an AFP photographer who was beaten by protesters and had his equipment stolen.
Hardline Bolsonaro supporters have protested outside army bases, demanding military intervention to prevent Lula from taking power since his election victory.
Lula’s government vowed to find and arrest those who planned and financed the attacks.
Brasilia Governor Ibañez Rocha fired the capital’s chief of public security, 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 the acts and omissions” that led to the unrest.
It also asked the Supreme Court for permission to use “all public security forces” to restore federal buildings and disperse anti-government protests across the country.
Protester Sarah Lima told AFP she was calling for a review of the “rigged elections”.
Lula narrowly won the runoff, with a score of 50.9% to 49.1%. Bolsonaro, who left for the US state of Florida on the second-to-last day of his term, has claimed he is the victim of a plot against him by Brazilian courts and electoral authorities.
“I’m here for history, for my daughters,” said Lima, 27, as she wore the yellow jersey of the Brazilian national soccer team – a symbol Bolsonaro supporters have claimed as theirs – and protested with her twin daughters.
Fellow protester Rogerio Souza Marcos said the election was plagued by “multiple signs of fraud and corruption”.
New Minister of Justice and Public Security Flavio Dino described the invasion as a “ridiculous 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 “strongly condemns” the attacks.
US President Joe Biden criticized the scenes as “outrageous”, European Council President Charles Michel tweeted his “absolute condemnation”, 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 group of Latin American leaders joined the conference, with Chilean President Gabriel Boric denouncing it as a “cowardly and hateful attack on democracy” and Mexico’s Andres Manuel López Obrador calling it a “heinous coup attempt”.