Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday breached security barriers set up by the Armed Forces and gained access to key buildings for the three branches of government, including the congressional building, the Supreme Court and the Planalto Presidential Palace, according to images shown in Brazilian media.
Footage showed massive crowds in the capital of Brasília walking up a ramp that leads 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. Inside, protesters were using furniture to build barricades to prevent police from entering, CNN Brasil reported.
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.
The breaches come about a week after the inauguration of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose return to power after a 12-year hiatus comes after he defeated Bolsonaro in a run-off election on October 30.
Bolsonaro’s administration previously said it was cooperating with the transition of power, but the far-right leader has stopped short of explicitly conceding his election loss, and he left the country for the United States prior to Lula’s inauguration.
Supporters of Bolsonaro have been camped out in the capital since then. Justice Minister Flavio Dino had authorized the Armed Forces to set up the barriers and guard the congressional building Saturday due to the continued presence of pro-Bolsonaro supporters.
Neither house of Congress is currently in session. And while President Lula is not currently in the building, a team assembled for the newly-elected president was working inside the palace at the time the protesters entered, CNN Brasil reported. Officials at Planalto Palace are waiting for the Air Force to evacuate them from the building, per CNN Brasil.
President Lula on Sunday described the events as “barbaric” and called the Bolsonaro protesters who breached the government buildings “fascists.”
“These people are everything that is abominable in politics, to invade the government headquarters, the headquarters of Congress and the headquarters of the Supreme Court like true vandals destroying everything in their path,” Lula said.
Lula also said there was a “lack of security” and said “all the people who did this will be found and punished.”
The president held the press conference in Araraquara, where he had been surveying areas damaged by heavy floods.
Brazilian officials condemned the actions of demonstrators, which were reminiscent of January 6, 2021, when rioters stormed the US Capitol in an effort to prevent the certification of the 2020 election and President Joe Biden’s win over former President Donald Trump.
“The National Congress has never denied a voice to those who want to demonstrate peacefully. But it will never give room for turmoil, destruction and vandalism,” Arthur Lira, president of the Lower House of Congress said on Twitter. “Those responsible for promoting and abetting this attack on Brazilian democracy and its main symbols must be identified and punished in accordance with the law.”
Brazil’s Attorney General’s office (MPF) said in a statement it is investigating all involved in the breaches.
“The Attorney General of the Republic, Augusto Aras, monitors and follows with concern the acts of vandalism to public buildings that occur in Brasília this Sunday (8),” the MPF said.
Aras has also “requested the Attorney General’s Office in the Federal District (PRDF) to immediately open a criminal investigation procedure aimed at holding those involved accountable.”
Several hours after the breach, Brazil’s Federal District Military Police (PMDF) said in a statement they had begun dispersing pro-Bolsonaro protesters inside the buildings.
Those identified as taking part in “acts of vandalism” are being taken to the police station, according to the PMDF.
Approximately 30 protesters have been arrested, according to CNN Brasil, which aired videos showing buses of arrested protesters.
Dino, who said he was at the Ministry of Justice headquarters, condemned the actions of Bolsonaro’s supporters in a statement on Twitter, saying, “This absurd attempt to impose the will by force will not prevail.”
Gleisi Hoffman, president of the Worker’s Party, called the breaches “a crime announced against democracy” and “against the will of the polls.”
Federal District Security Secretary Anderson Torres – and the former justice minister under Bolsonaro’s government – similarly called the scenes “regrettable,” adding that he had ordered “immediate steps to restore order in the center of Brasília.”
Torres, who was the Justice Minister under Bolsonaro, was appointed to the Federal District office by current governor Ibaneis Rocha but was dismissed after Sunday’s breaches.
Brazilian Federal Public Defender (AGU) asked the country’s Supreme Court to issue an arrest order for Torres and “other public agents responsible for acts and omissions.”
The AGU also requested the “immediate evacuation of all federal public buildings across the country, and the dissolution of anti-democratic acts carried out in the vicinity of barracks and other military units.”
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Sunday afternoon condemned the violence in Brazil’s capital and “any effort to undermine democracy in Brazil.”
“President Biden is following the situation closely and our support for Brazil’s democratic institutions is unwavering. Brazil’s democracy will not be shaken by violence,” Sullivan wrote on Twitter.
Portugal’s government said in a statement it condemns “the acts of violence and disorder that took place today in Brasilia” and pledged support for authorities “in restoring order and legality.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, joined other world leaders in offering support to President Lula: “The will of the Brazilian people and democratic institutions must be respected! President Lula da Silva can count on the unconditional support of France,” Macron said on Twitter.
The President of the European Council Charles Michel also condemned “the assault on the democratic institutions of Brazil” and pledged his support to the Brazilian president, as did Spain and Colombia.