Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil, was plunged into turmoil on Sunday, January 8th when thousands of supporters for former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed government buildings with the intention of overthrowing the government.
The pro-Bolsonaro protestors stormed what is called the Three Powers which are the presidential offices, the congress building, and the supreme court. “What we are witnessing is a terrorist attack,” said Erick Bang, news anchor for GloboNews, a Brazilian television network. “The three buildings have been invaded by coup-mongering terrorists.” The perpetrators of what has been described as an attack against democracy by some in Brazil made their way to the government buildings causing chaos and knocking police officers off their horses. They were dressed in the yellow jersey of the Brazilian national football team and waving their country’s flag. When they entered the government buildings they broke furniture, windows, and equipment.
Official documents and artwork were also destroyed in the government buildings in the protest. Multiple videos of the attack are available, showing the actions of the protestors. A group of them climbed onto the roof of Congress and unfurled a banner reading “INTERVENTION.” The protestors have been calling on the military to intervene and remove the government. Before the arrival of law enforcement authorities, the protestors freely occupied the above-mentioned buildings. Reports indicate that about 1,500 people were arrested for the protests.
Lula’s Response to Attack on Government Buildings
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was not in Brasilia at the time the violent and destructive protest occurred at the government buildings. Lula was in Sao Paulo on an official visit, providing flood victims with relief. However, he made a fiery speech before he eventually made his way to Brasilia. “These vandals, who we could call fanatical Nazis, fanatical Stalinists … fanatical fascists, did what has never been done in the history of this country,” said Lula. “All these people who did this will be found and they will be punished.” Lula blamed Bolsonaro for the protests. “This genocidist … is encouraging this via social media from Miami,” Lula said. “Everybody knows there are various speeches of the ex-president encouraging this.”
Bolsonaro’s Response to Attack on Government Buildings
Bolsonaro left Brazil for Florida, USA, before President Lula’s inauguration on January 1st, 2023. While he was directly blamed for the protests at the government buildings, he refused to take the blame. “Peaceful demonstrations, within the law, form part of democracy,” he wrote on Twitter. “However, depredations and invasions of public buildings like those that happened today, as well as those practiced by the left in 2013 and 2017, are exceptions to the rule.”
“Throughout my mandate, I have always stayed within the four lines of the constitution, respecting and defending laws, democracy, transparency, and our sacred freedom. In addition, I reject the baseless accusations attributed to me by the current head of the executive branch in Brazil.”
Bolsonaro did not directly condemn the protestors or call for them to stop, seeing that they were protesting in his name.
Since Lula won Brazil’s Presidential election in October 2022, Bolsonaro’s supporters have refuted the results. They claimed that the results of the election were manipulated in favor of Lula. Soon after the elections, groups of these pro-Bolsonaro people set up camps outside military bases, calling on the army to carry out a coup d’état. It is believed that Sunday’s protests originated from these camps, leading to actions that are similar to the attack that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021. The protestors did as they pleased with minimal intervention from the police at the government buildings.
The leaders of the arms of government released a joint statement. “We call on society to remain calm in defense of peace and democracy,” the statement said. “The country needs normality, respect, and social justice.”
The pro-Bolsonaro protests were followed by big pro-democracy marches that took place on Monday, January 9th, with one of the largest taking place in Sao Paulo.