Brazil was reeling Monday after hundreds of supporters of the country’s former leader Jair Bolsonaro stormed the seats of power in the capital Brasilia, trashing offices and drawing condemnation from the government and the international community.
More than a thousand people have been arrested, with Brazilian Justice Minister Flavio Dino telling reporters Monday that there had been “about 1,500” arrests in Brasilia since the Sunday riots.
The breaches came a week after the inauguration of Lula da Silva, who returned to power after a 12-year hiatus following a victory over Bolsonaro in a run-off election on October 30.
The attack bore similarities to the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol in Washington DC, when supporters of ex-US President Donald Trump – a close ally of Bolsonaro – stormed Congress in an effort to prevent the certification of his election defeat.
Here’s what you need to know about the events in Brasilia.
Footage Sunday showed massive crowds in Brasília walking up a ramp to the congressional building, where they had reached the Green Room, located outside the lower House of Congress’ chamber, Interim Senate President Veneziano Vital do Rogo told CNN Brasil.
Other outlets showed Bolsonaro suporters entering the Supreme Court and the presidential palace, where CNN Brasil showed the arrivals of anti-riot police and the Brazilian Armed Forces.
The floor of the Congress building was flooded after the sprinkler system activated when protesters attempted to set fire to the carpet, according to CNN Brasil. Additional videos showed protesters inside the building taking gifts received from international delegations and destroying artwork.
Brazil’s Presidential Communications Minister Paulo Pimenta described how there was blood, feces and urine found in the palace rooms. “Onlookers said they seemed beside themselves with hate, like a horde of zombies. They were running down hallways, smashing things, urinating, defecating in the corridors and in the rooms on one destruction spree,” he stated.
By Sunday evening, several hours after the breaches, the three buildings had been cleared of protesters, CNN Brasil reported. At least 400 people have been arrested, according to Federal District Gov. Ibaneis Rocha.
Those arrested “will pay for the crimes committed” Rocha tweeted, adding that they are “working to identify all the others who participated in these terrorist acts this afternoon.”
Hours later, however, Rocha was suspended from his post for 90 days by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes.
Who are the protesters?
A number of hardcore supporters of ex-President Jair Bolsonaro have been making their resentment of Lula clear since he won the October election, and those grievances have intensified in recent weeks, culminating in Sunday’s storming of Brazil’s democratic institutions.
Spurred by unfounded claims of election fraud, supporters draped in Brazil’s national colors and wearing the shirt of the national football team – both of which became central motifs of Bolsonaro’s campaigns – spilled into major government buildings, smashing windows and using furniture to form barricades against security forces.
But the events of Sunday did not emerge from nowhere.