Hundreds of supporters of Brazil’s far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro broke through police barricades and stormed into Congress, the presidential palace and the Supreme Court Sunday, in a dramatic protest against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s inauguration last week.
A sea of protesters dressed in the green and yellow of the flag flooded into the seat of power in Brasilia, invading the floor of Congress and scaling the iconic building’s roof to unfurl a banner with an appeal to Brazil’s military: “INTERVENTION.”
Social media footage showed rioters breaking doors and windows to enter the Congress building, then streaming inside en masse, trashing lawmakers’ offices and using the sloped speaker’s dais on the floor of the legislature as a slide as they shouted insults directed at the absent lawmakers.
One video showed a crowd outside pulling a policeman from his horse and beating him to the ground.
The shocking images were reminiscent of the January 6, 2021 invasion of the US Capitol building by supporters of then-president Donald Trump, a Bolsonaro ally.
Police, who had established a security cordon around Brasilia’s Three Powers Square, home to the classic modernist buildings of the National Congress, the Planalto Palace and the Supreme Court, fired tear gas in a bid to disperse the rioters, to no avail.
Protester Sarah Lima told AFP they were demanding a review of veteran leftist Lula’s October 30 runoff election win over Bolsonaro.
Lula, who took office Sunday, narrowly won the vote by a score 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 term, has alleged he is the victim of a conspiracy against him by Brazil’s electoral authorities.
“We need to reestablish order after this fraudulent election,” said Lima, a 27-year-old production engineer wearing the yellow jersey of the Brazilian national football team — a symbol Bolsonaro backers have claimed as their own — and protesting with her young twin daughters.
“I’m here for history, for my daughters,” she added.
Newly-installed Justice and Public Security Minister Flavio Dino called the invasion “an absurd attempt to impose (the protesters’) will by force.”
“It will not prevail,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The (Brasilia) federal district government is sending reinforcements and the forces on the ground are acting at this time.”
The riots came as Lula, 77, was in the southeastern city of Araraquara visiting a region devastated by floods late last year.
Hardline Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting outside military bases in Brazil since his election loss, calling for an army intervention to keep Lula, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, from returning to power.