Bolsonaro supporters storm Brazil Congress, presidential palace

Bolsonaro supporters storm Brazil Congress, presidential palace
Startling images on social media show supporters occupying Brazil's main chamber, in a troubling echo of the January 6th insurrection in the US.
3 min read
Security forces used sporadic teargas but failed to disperse the rioters [Getty images]

Supporters of Brazil's far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro have pushed through police barricades and stormed into the national Congress building Sunday in a dramatic protest against President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva's inauguration last week.

In response, Lula da Silva has declared a federal security intervention in Brasilia.

Lula called the rioters "fascists, fanatics" and said they would be punished "with the full force of law." The federal intervention in Brasilia will last until Jan. 31, he added in a speech shortly after the riots.

Social media footage also showed rioters storming the nearby Planalto presidential palace and Brazil's Supreme Court in what was quickly unfolding as a serious episode of political unrest.

The area around the parliament building in Brasilia had been cordoned off by authorities. But hundreds of Bolsonaro backers who refuse to accept leftist Lula's election victory broke through, marched up ramps and gathered on a roof of the modernist building, an AFP photographer witnessed.

In startling images uploaded to social media -- and reminiscent of the January 6, 2022 invasion of the US Capitol building by supporters of then-president Donald Trump, a Bolsonaro ally -- a tide of people stormed the national Congress, many waving Brazilian flags.

The building is where Brazil's Senate and Chamber of Deputies conducts its legislative business.

Protesters appeared on the iconic building's roof, but also on many of its adjoining lawns and open spaces, including that of the nearby Planalto palace.

Security forces used tear gas in an apparently failed effort to repel the demonstrators.

Bolsonaro, who was narrowly defeated by Lula in the second round of the presidential election on October 30, left Brazil at the end of the year and traveled to Florida, the US state where Trump now resides.

'Fraudulent election'

Protester Sarah Lima told AFP they were demanding a review of veteran leftist Lula's October 30 runoff election win over Bolsonaro.

Lula, who took office Sunday, narrowly won the vote by a score of 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent. Bolsonaro, who left for the US state of Florida on the second-to-last day of his term, has alleged he is the victim of a conspiracy against him by Brazil's electoral authorities.

"We need to reestablish order after this fraudulent election," said Lima, a 27-year-old production engineer wearing the yellow jersey of the Brazilian national football team -- a symbol Bolsonaro backers have claimed as their own -- and protesting with her young twin daughters.

"I'm here for history, for my daughters," she added.

Newly-installed Justice and Public Security Minister Flavio Dino called the invasion "an absurd attempt to impose (the protesters') will by force."

"It will not prevail," he wrote on Twitter.

"The (Brasilia) federal district government is sending reinforcements and the forces on the ground are acting at this time."

The riots came as Lula, 77, was in the southeastern city of Araraquara visiting a region devastated by floods late last year.

Hardline Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting outside military bases in Brazil since his election loss, calling for an army intervention to keep Lula, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, from returning to power.