Brazilian police used tear gas canisters on Sunday to try to repel hundreds of supporters of far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro who managed to gain access to Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court in Brasilia, a week after the inauguration of left-wing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
What happened ?
The area around Congress had been cordoned off by the authorities, but the bolsonarists who refuse to accept the election of Lula managed to break the security cordons and several dozen of them managed to climb the ramp of this building with modern architecture to occupy the roof. The invasion caused extensive damage, according to images posted on social media.
These impressive images, reminiscent the invasion of the capitol in the united states, show a real human tide flowing towards Congress. According to the videos, pro-Bolsonaro activists then broke windows in order to gain access to the very interior of the Parliament, but also to the very interior of the Planalto presidential palace.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva described these demonstrators as “fascist vandals” a few hours later and decreed a “federal intervention” on the police to take control of the security of the capital. “We will find them all and they will all be punished,” Lula said of the Bolsonarists responsible for ransacking Lula, who was sworn in as president only a week ago.
What is the extent of the damage?
The Congress brings together in the same building the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The Federal Supreme Court is also nearby, the highest instance of the Brazilian judiciary. Videos posted on social networks show protesters destroying the premises.
The police, who seemed completely overwhelmed, tried, in vain, to push them away. They can be observed being knocked off their horses by the demonstrators, then forced to step back and extricate themselves from the demonstrators. The damage seems considerable, in these buildings which are treasures of modern architecture and are full of works of art. The demonstrators attack the furniture but also the walls and the ceiling of the Federal Supreme Court.
Deputy André Janones, calling these protesters “terrorists”, accused them on Twitter of stealing “computers, tables, chairs and even doors”.
A photojournalist from the editorial staff of Metropoles recounts having been violently attacked by the demonstrators. She found herself surrounded by a dozen people. “They gathered around me shouting and swearing. I tried to get out of there, but they punched me in the stomach and took my equipment while they kicked me,” she explains from her media site. .
Over a hundred people arrested
Faced with the scale of the Bolsonarists’ mobilization, the government in place announced the dispatch of reinforcements. “This absurd attempt to impose a will by force will not prevail. The government of the Federal District (of Brasilia) will send reinforcements and the forces we have are acting,” said Flavio Dino, Minister of Justice and Public Security, on Twitter.
On Saturday, Flavio Dino had authorized the deployment of agents from the National Force, a special police force sometimes sent to the various states in the event of a threat to law and order. Lula, 77, was absent from Brasilia on Sunday: he went to Araraquara, a city in the state of Sao Paulo (southeast) devastated by floods at the end of the year.
The police and security of the Federal Supreme Court finally regained control of the building, initiating the evacuation of the Brazilian Congress. At least 150 supporters of far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro were arrested on the spot, according to several media. Images from the CNN Brazil channel showed Bolsonarists dressed in yellow and green descending in single file, hands behind their backs, the ramp of the presidential palace of Planalto, surrounded by police.
What are the motivations of Bolsonaro supporters?
Since Lula’s election against Bolsonaro at the end of October, supporters of the former president have been demonstrating, denouncing rigged elections. They demanded the intervention of the army to prevent Lula from returning to power for a third term, after those from 2003 to 2010. “We have to restore order, after this fraudulent election”, told a journalist AFP present on the spot Sarah Lima, a 27-year-old pro-Bolsonaro engineer from Goianesia, 300 km from Brasilia.
In the aftermath of Jair Bolsonaro’s defeat, his supporters had blocked roads in at least 11 states across the country. They had burned tires and parked vehicles in the middle of the road to stop traffic, before being gradually dispersed by the police. Bolsonaro had himself called for the unblocking of the roads but had indicated supporting “legitimate protests”. He encouraged his supporters to join the demonstrators massed in front of the military buildings.
Jair Bolsonaro left Brazil even before the end of his mandate to reach the United States. He never congratulated Lula on his election and shunned his investiture.
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Brazil: Bolsonaro supporters invade Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court
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