Brazil: Jair Bolsonaro Supporters Storm Capital, Destroy Supreme Court & Congress

Thousands of protesters stormed the offices of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the headquarters of the Congress and Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) of Brazil on Sunday.

Opponents of the socialist convicted felon President reportedly demolished the facades of two of the three buildings and caused “irreparable” damage to priceless artifacts in the chambers.

Lula was not in Brasília at the time of the attack but he gave an angry speech blaming former President Jair Bolsonaro for the chaos and promising that “anyone involved will be punished”.

Breitbart reports: Lula, in a public statement following police action to subdue the protesters, announced an official “federal intervention” in Brasilia – consolidating the public security powers of several agencies into the hands of a hand-picked, top-level official – and accused police of acting in “bad faith” in failing to prevent the protesters from storming the buildings.

The incident is an offshoot of months of protests following the October presidential election that saw Lula narrowly defeat then-incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro in two rounds of voting. Most protesters support Bolsonaro but, more broadly, oppose Lula’s victory as illegitimate on several grounds, including his multiple convictions on charges of corrupt acts occurring during his first two terms as president. An audit of the 2022 runoff presidential election, which featured only Bolsonaro and Lula as candidates, by the Armed Forces of Brazil concluded that no guarantee could be made of the absence of fraud or irregularities.

Protesters also accuse the STF, particularly its head justice Alexandre de Moraes, of intervening in the election by censoring mentions of Lula’s corruption case and silencing Bolsonaro supporters through fines and police raids.

Lula’s inauguration on January 1 occurred without major incident and Lula used his powers to immediately begin undoing Bolsonaro policies, most notably sharply limiting civilian access to firearms. Last month, Lula’s pick for justice minister, Flavio Dino, referred to anti-Lula protest groups as “incubators of terrorism.”

Many of the protesters convening in Brasilia on Sunday are part of a movement demanding that the nation’s military oust Lula. They insist that their demand is not for a coup d’etat, but for a “military intervention” they say the Brazilian constitution provides for in the event of an illegitimate election.

Some protesters shared videos on social media during the event on Sunday urging the military to “save us from communism.”

The Brazilian news network Jovem Pan reported that what began as a peaceful protest on Sunday against Lula veered out of control as “nearly 100” buses from around the country drove into the capital, overwhelming the number of police in the streets. The protesters tore down a barricade keeping them off of the Congressional building’s esplanade and climbed atop it, storming its roof while hundreds of others destroyed the glass facade below. The mob succeeded despite police attempting to hold back the wave of people with tear gas.

The protesters reportedly chanted slogans such as “Brazil is ours!”

Protesters, supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the the National Congress building in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Once in the building, protesters set part of the Congress on fire, and destroyed several offices. Authorities have not yet at press time estimated the total damage to the building, though multiple Brazilian news outlets have cited eyewitness accounts to conclude it was significant.

At the STF, the nation’s top court, Jovem Pan documented shouts of “break everything, people!”

The STF is a target of particular hatred from Brazilian conservatives due to its use of censorship powers against Bolsonaro supporters. Minister [Justice] de Moraes – who also ran the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), which administers elections, last year – presided over a “fake news” probe that resulted in violent police raids against comedians, Youtube commentators, and journalists in 2020 for having publicly supported Bolsonaro. De Moraes also presided over the arrest and sentencing of former Congressman Daniel Silveira to eight years in prison for having insulted STF ministers in a youtube video; Bolsonaro pardoned Silveira last year.