One week after Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known as Lula) was sworn in as Brazil’s president, protesters in the capital district on Sunday invaded the buildings of the country’s three branches of government. The response from Lula’s government was swift with the mobilisation of the militarised police force resulting in hundreds of arrests.
Brasil Sem Medo reports that 1,200 people were arrested in Brasilia and taken to the Federal Police Superintendence in a coordinated action of the army and the military police, one of the country’s police forces.
On the afternoon of Sunday, January 8, protesters who had been gathering for weeks around the country’s military headquarters in Brasilia moved en masse to the halls of government: the supreme court building, the presidential palace, and the congress of deputies; broke through a police line, and entered the buildings. Videos on social media show demonstrators breaking windows, pulling a mounted police officer from his horse, and leaving the buildings in ransacked shambles.
Police dispersed the protesters at the government buildings with tear gas. Protests have been going on for weeks throughout the country in the wake of the October 30 election in which Lula was declared the winner. Many in the country question the fairness of the elections due to evidence of various irregularities in favour of Lula, including imbalanced campaign advertising, censorship imposed by the country’s supreme court, and electronic voting machine irregularities. Some had been calling for the military to intervene. They had hoped that former president Jair Bolsonaro would take action to oppose the election results, but after several days of silence, he ceded the presidency to Lula in early November. Bolsonaro left the country for Florida two days before Lula’s inauguration.
Still, demonstrators maintained their peaceful protests, alarmed at Lula retaking the helm of Brazil. Lula served prison time for the misappropriation of millions of the country’s funds during his previous presidency from 2002-2010.
On Sunday they took matters a step further.
In response, Lula ordered the country’s police forces to arrest participants and to clear all protests at military barracks in various parts of the country within 24 hours. He also authorised federal intervention in the capital until the end of January.
Brasil Sem Medo reports that demonstrators’ camps around the military headquarters in Brasilia were cleared out on Monday, and at least 1,200 people had been arrested.
The dissolution of protest camps at military barracks was ordered by the supreme court within the scope of the “inquiry into anti-democratic acts” started when opposition to the election results emerged shortly after the elections. Alexandre de Moraes, the supreme court judge who issued the order, said the protesting supporters of Jair Bolsonaro and Lula’s opponents should all be arrested for “terrorist acts, including preparatory acts,” “criminal association,” “violent abolition of the democratic rule of law,” “coup d’état,” “threat,” “persecution,” and “incitement to crime.”
He also ordered social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok to block accounts of users posting “anti-democratic propaganda.” The court’s history of censorship was one of the complaints of protesters.
In the same decision, Moraes ordered the removal of the governor of Basilia, Ibaneis Rocha for 90 days, accusing him of “total inertia in closing the criminal camp in front of the Army HQ” and for allowing busloads of protesters to enter the federal district in the days before the riots. Such buses have now been banned from entering the capital.
Moraes also issued a warrant for the arrest of former federal Justice Minister Anderson Torres and of “all public agents responsible for the acts and omissions.” Lula blamed the military police for inaction against the rioters leading to their invasion of government buildings.
Torres had just been appointed security secretary for Brasilia after serving as minister of justice for two years under former President Jair Bolsonaro’s government. Roche had fired Torres before being punished himself. Torres is currently on vacation in Orlando, Florida, though he denies he went there to meet with Bolsonaro.
Facebook parent Meta said on Monday it had flagged Sunday’s event as violent and would be removing posts supporting or praising the popular storming of Brazilian government buildings.
Lula blamed Bolsonaro for inciting the storm on the public buildings. Bolsonaro] said the actions of demonstrators had “crossed the line.” U.S. Democraic lawmakers are calling for his deportation.
In other parts of the country, protestors blocked roads as they had done in the first days of anti-Lula demonstrations.