Brazil, assault on Parliament: at least 400 arrests

Thousands of supporters of former President Bolsonaro stormed the buildings of power

Security forces cleared the Brazilian National Congress and other government sites in Brasília after thousands of supporters of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the area. The demonstrators managed to break into Parliament by breaking through the security cordons. They smashed the windows on the facade of the Congress building and stormed the entrance.

After the attack on Congress, Bolsonaro supporters moved to the Supreme Court, where they broke windows and entered the lobby. Later, they entered the Palácio do Planalto, the official seat of the president, where they were seen on television waving Brazilian flags as they ran through corridors and offices. It took several hours for the security forces to regain control of the buildings.

Protesters then gathered in parking lots and on the lawn in front of the National Congress. Brasília governor Ibaneis Rocha said more than 400 people had been arrested. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was not in the capital at the time of the attack, strongly condemned the riots: “All vandals will be found and punished,” said Lula, who has only been in office for a week. “We will also find out who financed them,” he added. Lula also signed a decree allowing the government to assume responsibility for public safety in Brasília, “in response to terrorist acts,” the justice ministry said.

“This absurd attempt to impose the will by force will not prevail,” Justice and Public Security Minister Flávio Dino said in a statement.

Bolsonaro lost to Lula in last October’s runoff and left office at the end of the year. He has never explicitly acknowledged his electoral defeat. “Peaceful and legal demonstrations are part of democracy. However, the depredations and invasions of public buildings such as those that occurred today (Sunday, ed), as well as those practiced by the left in 2013 and 2017, escape the rule,” he tweeted Bolsonaro added: “I also reject the allegations, devoid of evidence, attributed to me by the current Brazilian chief executive”.

Earlier in the day, Lula accused his predecessor of making “several speeches… encouraging” what happened. “This is also the responsibility of him and of the parties that supported him,” Lula said.

As blame has begun to be exchanged over the inability of law enforcement to prevent the unrest, Rocha said on Twitter that the capital’s security chief, Anderson Torres, has been fired. “I have decided to fire the head of Federal District Security and, at the same time, have sent all security forces to the streets to arrest and punish those responsible,” Rocha wrote.

US President Joe Biden said Brazil has Washington’s full support: “I condemn the assault on democracy and the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil. Brazil’s democratic institutions have our full support and the will of the people Brazilian must not be undermined,” he wrote on Twitter.

Even the EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell condemned the “anti-democratic acts of violence” and reiterated the European Union’s “full support” for Lula and the Brazilian democratic system. “Brazilian political leaders, and especially former President Bolsonaro, must act responsibly and urge their supporters to go home. The place to resolve political differences is within Brazil’s democratic institutions and not through violence in the streets,” Borrell said in a statement.