A week after the end of the term of office of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, radical supporters of the right-wing ex-military stormed the government district in the capital Brasília. They broke into Congress, the Supreme Court and the Palácio do Planalto seat of government on Sunday, TV footage showed. The police used pepper spray, tear gas and stun grenades.
After several hours, security forces brought the building back under control, according to media reports. Special forces from the military police and the presidential guard managed to clear the building, as reported by the state Agência Brasil. The demonstrators then gathered in parking lots and the lawn in front of the National Congress. Dozens of suspects were arrested.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was not in the capital at the time of the attack, strongly condemned the riots and ordered the federal government to assume responsibility for public security in Brasília. The city's security chief, Anderson Torres, former justice minister under Bolsonaro, has been fired. Bolsonaro's party distanced itself from the events.
Demonstrators on and in the building
The demonstrators smashed the windows of the facade of the congress building and entered the entrance hall. Videos showed people climbing onto tables and benches in the Senate plenary hall. Hundreds of demonstrators had previously entered the Parliament premises and climbed onto the roof of the building.
After the attack on Congress, Bolsonaro supporters also moved to the Supreme Court. The news portal G1 reported that they threw in windows and entered the lobby. During Bolsonaro's tenure, the judges repeatedly put the right-wing head of state in his place and are therefore despised by his supporters. Later, the crowd also moved to the Palácio do Planalto, the seat of government. Men with Brazilian flags walked through hallways and offices, as seen on TV Globo.
The military police used armored vehicles, and helicopters circled over the government district. TV showed Bolsonaro supporters pulling a mounted policeman from his horse and beating him.
Lula announces penalties
Lula announced harsh penalties. "All vandals will be found and punished," said the head of state. "We will also find out who funded it." At the time, he was in the city of Araraquara in the state of São Paulo to find out about the consequences of the severe storms in the region.
Security chief Torres was immediately replaced. "I have decided to dismiss the Minister of Security of the Federal District and at the same time have sent all security forces into the streets to arrest and punish those responsible," Federal District Governor Ibaneis Rocha wrote on Twitter. "I am in Brasília to observe the demonstrations and to take all measures to curb the anti-democratic riots in the government district."
By the evening, 30 people had been taken into custody, the news portal G1 reported, citing the Supreme Court. Television showed police officers leading several men and women out of Congress with their hands tied behind their backs.
"I condemn these anti-democratic acts that urgently need to be punished with the harshness of the law," Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco wrote on Twitter. "I spoke to the governor of the federal district, Ibaneis Rocha, with whom I am in regular contact. The governor informed me that the entire police force is focused on bringing the situation under control."
Scenes like in Washington 2021
The scenes were reminiscent of the riots at the seat of the US Congress in Washington on January 6, 2021. At that time, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, where the Republican's election defeat against Joe Biden was to be authenticated. The crowd violently entered the building, five people died.
US President Joe Biden called the incidents "outrageous" during a visit to the state of Texas, according to his spokeswoman. "Our support for Brazil's democratic institutions is unwavering," said Brazil's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.
The head of the ruling Workers' Party (PT) raised serious allegations against those responsible in Brasília. "The federal district government was irresponsible in the face of the invasion of Brasília and the National Congress," Gleisi Hoffmann wrote on Twitter. "It was an announced crime against democracy, against the will of voters and for other interests. The governor and his secretary of security, a Bolsonaro supporter, are responsible for everything that happens."
Bolsonaro's party: "strongly condemn this behavior"
Bolsonaro's party condemned the attacks. "Today is a sad day for the Brazilian nation. We cannot agree to the storming of the National Congress," Bolsonaro's Liberal Party (PL) leader Valdemar Costa Neto said in a video. "All orderly demonstrations are legitimate. But chaos has never been part of our nation's tenets. We strongly condemn this behavior. The law must be enforced to strengthen our democracy."
Right-wing President Bolsonaro lost to left-wing politician Lula in the runoff last October and left office at the turn of the year. Even before the election, he had repeatedly cast doubt on the electoral system. However, he never presented any evidence of this. Even after the vote, he never explicitly acknowledged his defeat. His supporters repeatedly blocked country roads, camped out in front of barracks and demanded military intervention in favor of the deposed head of state.