Rebellion in Brazil: Thousands of Bolsonaro supporters storm São Paulo courts and palace, call election fraudulent
About 170 of the former president’s supporters were reportedly arrested as a result of the incidents
January 8, 2023 10:26pm
Updated: January 8, 2023 10:26pm
Chaos erupted in Brazil’s capital city of São Paulo Sunday afternoon when thousands of supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the South American country’s National Congress, Supreme Federal Court and the Planalto Palace.
Videos depict demonstrators draped in Brazil’s national yellow and green colors charging toward the country’s government complex and breaking into buildings at 2:40 p.m. as protestors heralded accusations that the presidential election was stolen.
The rioters reportedly destroyed documents, furniture and broke windows before law enforcement agents were able to extricate them after sunset.
About 170 of the former president’s supporters were reportedly arrested as a result of the riots.
The shocking event has already drawn haunting comparisons from American officials to what happened on Jan. 6, 2021 when thousands of supporters of then President Donald Trump similarly stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. as Congress was certifying former Vice President Joe Biden as the new president.
Reports from Brazil indicate that newly elected President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was not in the area when the rots occurred, and former President Jair Bolsonaro is reportedly currently visiting Florida with his family.
Mr. da Silva, who was hundreds miles away from the government’s capital complex on Sunday was reportedly visiting flood victims in the state of São Paulo.
He has already referred to the protestors as “fanatic fascists,” and issued an emergency measure in the area, empowering Brazil’s federal government to temporarily supersede state authorities.
The 77-year-old newly elected president leader, often regarded as a symbol of the Latin American left, lashed out against the country’s military police force, suggesting they stood down intentionally because their ranks are filled with Bolsonaro supporters.
Da Silva said the protestors were already on the march for about an hour before they reached the presidential palace, but the police “did absolutely nothing.”
Bolsonaro, who is currently vacationing with his family in Florida has refused to concede the election, which da Silva purportedly won in October by a razor thin margin and only 51% of the vote.
The former president has made accusations of fraud, saying the election was stolen.
Bolsonaro previously filed a request with an Brazilian electoral court to discount certain ballots that were cast on specific electronic voting machines—a decision which could have changed the result of the Oct. 30 final vote tally, but the request was rejected by the Court.
Brazilian police responded to the Sunday incident by firing tear gas at demonstrators who seemed undeterred by the law enforcement response.
One protestor who breached the Supreme Court said, “God is on our side and will throw all the gas back to them.”
Another Brazilian, George Marques, reportedly said of the Supreme Court breach, “nothing was left intact, everything [was] destroyed” by the demonstrators.
The protestors also stormed the country’s Planalto Palace, the nation’s equivalent of the West Wing of the White House where the chief executive works.
Ibaneis Rocha, Brasilia's governor sought permission to suspend power to the governmental complex to deter the rioters from trying to occupy the buildings after the initial breach, according to Alerta News 24.
Some reports indicate that government employees who were working in the buildings at the time of the riots were attacked while videofrom the incident showed law enforcement officers trying to talk down some of the protestors.
Bolsonaro left Brazil for Orlando, Florida before da Silva was sworn in on Jan. 1, the first president in Brazil’s recent democratic history to refuse to participate in the inaugural ceremonies, which includes turning over the presidential sash to the new president. .
“This is exactly what the ex-president was encouraging his supporters to do,” da Silva said, accusing Bolsonaro of inciting Sunday’s riots.
Bolsonaro has denied accusations of inciting riots or an insurrection on Twitter.
“Peaceful demonstrations, within the law, are part of democracy. However, vandalism and the invasion of public buildings like today’s acts, and like those practiced by the left in 2013 and 2017, are an exception,” he said.
U.S. officials and Latin American leaders, such as Chilean President Gabriel Boric who attended the inaugural events with da Silva lashed out against the riots.
“The Brazilian government has our full support in the face of this cowardly and vile attack on democracy,” Boric wrote.
Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro, as well as government officials from Argentina and Mexico, released messages supporting Mr. da Silva’s administration.
“The United States condemns any effort to undermine democracy in Brazil,” Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, tweeted. “President Biden is following the situation closely and our support for Brazil’s democratic institutions is unwavering. Brazil’s democracy will not be shaken by violence.”
“Democracies of the world must act fast to make clear there will be no support for right-wing insurrectionists storming the Brazilian Congress. These fascists modeling themselves after Trump’s Jan. 6 rioters must end up in the same place: prison,” tweeted Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), former House Jan. 6 committee member.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also weighed in on Twitter: “Using violence to attack democratic institutions is always unacceptable.” He said the U.S. joins Mr. da Silva “in urging an immediate end to these actions.”
Some say Bolsonaro, who has stayed quiet since losing October’s election has sent mixed messages. He has discouraged any violence but has also continued to describe himself on social media as Brazil’s president.
In his first public appearance after the election, the then Brazilian president swore to respect the constitution while his then chief of staff, Ciro Nogueira, told journalists that his boss instructed him to start the transition process.
“Nothing is lost. The only real end is death,” Bolsonaro told supporters in a December speech. On Dec. 30 he told his supporters not to “throw in the towel.”
Some believe this comment was however, in reference to Bolsonaro’s belief that there could still be some legal remedy to overturn the election through the courts and constitutional, legal channels.