At least 300 people have been detained after thousands of supporters of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro invaded the country’s Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace, and desecrated the institutions of government.
In scenes eerily reminiscent of 2021’s 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol, rioters wearing the national flag’s green and yellow on Sunday (8 January) smashed windows, overturned furniture and threw laptops and printers to the ground in the city of Brasilia.
The demonstrators were demanding military intervention to either remove the freshly elected leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, or to reinstall the far-right Bolsonaro.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
On Sunday 8 January protesters donning the national flag’s green and yellow destroyed windows, flipped over furniture and flung laptops and printers to the ground in scenes that resembled the 6 January uprising at the US Capitol in 2021.
They tore a door off one justice’s office, punctured a large Emiliano Di Cavalcanti painting in five places, flipped over the U-shaped table where Supreme Court justices meet, and damaged a well-known statue outside the court. The interiors of the monumental buildings were left in a state of ruin.
Unlike the attack on the US Capitol in 2021, few officials would have been working in the top government buildings on a Sunday.
Justice Minister Flavio Dino said the actions of the rioters constituted terrorism and an attempted coup, and police have started looking for people responsible for funding the buses that carried demonstrators to the city.
“They will not succeed in destroying Brazilian democracy. We need to say that fully, with all firmness and conviction,” he said. “We will not accept the path of criminality to carry out political fights in Brazil. A criminal is treated like a criminal.”
Videos of the incident revealed the military police’s relatively scant coverage of the nation’s capital, leading many in Brazil to question whether the police had ignored abundant warnings, underestimated their abilities or had been somehow complicit.
The buildings will be examined for evidence, such as fingerprints and photos, to hold those accountable, said Brazil’s minister of institutional relations at a news conference. It is believed the rioters planned to incite similar such activities around the country.
Why did it happen?
Brazil has been on edge in the months following Bolsonaro’s election loss on 30 October 2022, and wary of any strategy he may use to cling to power.
His lawmaker son Eduardo Bolsonaro held several meetings with former US President Donald Trump, Trump’s longtime ally Steve Bannon, and his senior campaign adviser, Jason Miller.
Bolsonaro had been stoking belief among his ardent supporters that the electronic voting system was susceptible to fraud, despite the fact that he was never able to provide any evidence to support his claims.
Numerous international governments and officials from all political parties, including even Bolsonaro allies, swiftly acknowledged the results of the elections - the closest in Brazil in more than three decades - and to almost everyone’s surprise, Bolsonaro quickly vanished from public view.
He neither conceded defeat nor emphatically cried fraud, though he and his party did file a request to invalidate millions of ballots, which was quickly rejected.
What has Lula said about the riots?
During a news conference from the state of Sao Paulo, Lula read a freshly approved decree authorising the federal government to take charge of security in the federal district. He declared that anyone who supported the so-called “fascist fanatics” and their acts should be punished, and accused Bolsonaro of inciting their insurrection.
Bolsonaro responded by denying the president’s accusation, writing on Twitter that peaceful protest is part of democracy, but vandalism and invasion of public buildings are “exceptions to the rule”. He did not mention the protesters’ activities in Brasilia specifically.
Rishi Sunak has joined international condemnation of the scenes in Brazil, as world leaders condemned the demonstrations.
The Prime Minister said on Twitter: “I condemn any attempt to undermine the peaceful transfer of power and the democratic will of the people of Brazil.”
“I look forward to building on our countries’ close ties in the years ahead,” he added, and said President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has the UK’s “full support”.
US President Joe Biden tweeted that the riots were an “assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil” and that he looked forward to continue working with Lula, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the events a “major concern to all of us, the defenders of democracy”.