Brazilian police forces cordoned off the area around Congress, the presidential palace, and the Supreme Court on Monday, a day after ex-president Jair Bolsonaro supporters invaded the seat of power in riots that sparked an international outrage.
Bolsonaro supporters burst through police cordons and overran the halls of power in Brasilia, breaking windows and doors and ransacking offices in scenes reminiscent of the January 6, 2021 takeover of the US Capitol building by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
To combat the rioters, security personnel deployed tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannons at first, eventually subduing them.
The invasions were slammed as a “fascist” attack by newly installed President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a veteran socialist who narrowly won Brazil’s harsh, controversial October elections.
Meanwhile, the far-right Bolsonaro criticized “pillaging and assaults of public buildings” in a tweet. However, the politician known as “Tropical Trump” denied Lula’s assertion that he instigated the attacks and defended the freedom to “peaceful protests.”
Lula, who was touring a flood-affected district in the southeastern city of Araraquara, signed a document announcing a federal intervention in Brasilia, granting his government special powers over the local police force to restore law and order in the capital.
“These fascist extremists have done something never seen before in the history of this country,” Lula, 77, who assumed office a week ago, remarked “We’ll find out who these vandals are, and they’ll face the full force of the law.”
Lula returned to Brasilia and visited the presidential palace and the Supreme Court to inspect the damage. Despite the destruction, he stated that he will work from the palace on Monday.
At least 300 people were arrested in connection with the unrest, according to Federal District Police.
Police were seen bringing Bolsonaro supporters down the stairs from the Planalto presidential palace in single line, the same ramp Lula climbed a week earlier for his inauguration.
The Senate security agency said that 30 people had been apprehended in the chamber.
Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office demanded that investigations be launched immediately to ensure “the accountability of those implicated.”
The security chief of Brasilia has been fired.
Protesters clad in military camouflage and the green and yellow of the Brazilian flag surged into Brasilia’s Three Powers Square, invading the floor of Congress, damaging the Supreme Court building, and scaling the staircase to the Planalto.
Rioters were seen breaking doors and windows to gain access to the Congress building, then flooding inside in large numbers, damaging members’ offices and using the slanted speaker’s dais on the Senate floor as a slide while shouting insults at the absent lawmakers.
According to Brazilian media accounts, protesters ransacked buildings, damaging artworks, antique objects, furniture, and decorations.
A throng outside was shown on camera yanking a police officer from his horse and bashing him to the ground.
Police, who had set up a security perimeter around the area, shot tear gas in an attempt to disperse the protesters, which initially failed.
According to a journalists’ organization, at least five reporters were attacked, including an AFP photographer who was pummeled and had his equipment taken.
Since his election victory, hardline Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting outside army facilities, pushing for a military intervention to prevent Lula from gaining office.
Lula’s government committed to track down and apprehend those responsible for the attacks.
Anderson Torres, who previously served as Bolsonaro’s justice minister, was fired by Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha.
In turn, Federal Supreme Court magistrate Alexandre de Moraes ordered Rocha to resign for 90 days.
The attorney general’s office stated that it had requested that the Supreme Court issue arrest warrants for Torres “and all other public officials liable for acts and omissions” that contributed to the turmoil.
It also requested that the Supreme Court allow the use of “all public security personnel” to retake federal buildings and suppress anti-government protesters across the country.
Protester Sarah Lima told AFP that they were calling for an investigation into the “fraudulent election.”
Lula won the runoff by a slim margin of 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent. Bolsonaro, who left for the US state of Florida on the second-to-last day of his tenure, has claimed that Brazil’s judiciary and election authorities are conspiring against him.
“I’m here for history, for my girls,” Lima, 27, said, wearing the Brazilian national football team’s yellow jersey — a sign Bolsonaro supporters claim as their own — and protesting with her infant twin daughters.
According to fellow demonstrator Rogerio Souza Marcos, the elections were marred by “many indicators of fraud and corruption.”
Flavio Dino, the newly installed Justice and Public Security Minister, described the incursion as “an ludicrous attempt to impose (the demonstrators’) will by force.”
“It will not triumph,” he said on Twitter.
The demonstrators were swiftly condemned internationally.
The UN stated that it “vehemently condemns” the attacks.
US Vice President Joe Biden termed the actions “outrageous,” while European Council President Charles Michel tweeted his “total disapproval,” and French President Emmanuel Macron called for respect for Brazil’s institutions and pledged “France’s unshakeable support” to Lula.
The riots were also condemned by Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, while China stated that it “strongly opposes the violent attack.”
Chilean President Gabriel Boric condemned the coup as a “cowardly and despicable attack on democracy,” and Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called it a “reprehensible coup attempt.”