Thousands of supporters of Brazil’s ousted former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential offices on Sunday in what they claimed was a stolen election, a violent protest against years of conspiracy theories developed by Mr Bolsonaro and his authority. Culmination -wing aide.

In scenes reminiscent of the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, protesters in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, draped in the yellow and green of the Brazilian flag, stormed the seat of power, set fire to barricades, armed Disguised as police officers on horseback and filming their crimes as they committed them.

“We always said we would not give up,” declared one protester as he filmed himself among hundreds of protesters pushing into the Capitol building. “The Congress is ours. We are in power.

For months, protesters have been demanding that the military prevent the newly elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from taking office on 1 January. Despite the lack of evidence, many right-wingers in Brazil have become convinced that the October election was rigged.

For years, Mr. Bolsonaro claimed, without any evidence, that Brazil’s election systems were riddled with fraud and that the country’s elite were plotting to remove him from power.

Mr Lula said on Sunday that those false claims had fueled the attack on the plaza, known as Three Powers Square, because of the presence of three branches of government. “triggered it,” Mr Bolsonaro said in an address to the nation. “Whenever he could, he attacked the three powers. It is also his responsibility.

Mr Bolsonaro criticized the protests late on Sunday, saying on twitter that peaceful demonstrations are part of a democracy, but that “the destruction and invasion of public buildings, as happened today,” is not. But he rejected Mr Lula’s allegations, saying they were “without evidence”.

At his inauguration, Mr. Lula said that uniting Brazil, Latin America’s largest country and one of the world’s largest democracies, would be a central goal of his administration. The invasion of the capital reveals that the country’s divisions run deeper than many imagine, and it presents the new president with a formidable challenge just one week into his administration.

Following Mr Lula’s inauguration, protesters called online for others to join the mass demonstration on Sunday. It soon turned violent.

Hundreds of protesters climbed to the roof of the Congress building in the capital, Brasilia, while a smaller group invaded the building from a lower level, according to photos and videos of the scene posted on social media. Other groups of protesters scattered and entered the presidential offices and the Supreme Court, which are in the same plaza.

The scene was chaotic.

According to videos posted online, protesters stormed government buildings, which were largely empty on Sunday, smashing windows, overturning furniture and looting what was inside.

The crowd shouted that they were taking back their country and would not be stopped. Outnumbered, police fired rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas canisters, including two helicopters from above.

“The police are cowardly trying to get people out of the Congress, but there is no way, because more are coming,” said a protester in a video filmed from inside the Congress. “Nobody’s taking over our country, damn it.”

Eventually soldiers of the Brazilian army helped to regain control of some buildings.

Mr Lula, who was not in Brasilia during the invasion, issued an emergency order allowing the federal government to take “any necessary measures” to restore order in the capital until January 31. “There is no precedent for what these people have done and for this they should be punished,” he said.

The president, who arrived in the capital late at night to inspect the damage, said his government would also investigate those who may have financed the protests.

Mr. Bolsonaro appeared in Florida. He went to Orlando in the final days of his presidency in hopes that his absence from the country would help calm the investigation into his activity as president, according to a friend of the president who declined to be named to describe private conversations. Spoke on condition of anonymity. He planned to stay in Florida for one to three months, this person said.

What do we consider before using anonymous sources? Do sources know? What is his motivation for telling us? Have they proven reliable in the past? Can we verify the information? Even when these questions are satisfied, The Times uses anonymous sources as a last resort. The reporter and at least one editor know the identity of the source.

Mr. Bolsonaro has never explicitly acknowledged defeat in the election, leaving it to his allies to handle the transition and skipping the inauguration, where he is expected to give the presidential seal to Mr. Lula, an important symbol of the transition. Was. For a country that was under 21 years of military dictatorship till 1985.

After the election, he said that he supported peaceful protests motivated by “feelings of injustice in the election process”.

But before leaving for Florida, Mr Bolsonaro suggested to his supporters that they move on. “Whether we live in a democracy or not,” he said in a recorded statement. “No one wants adventure.”

His calls went unheeded.

The next day, thousands of his supporters camped outside the army headquarters in Brasilia, with many convinced that the army and Bolsonaro were about to execute a covert plan to block Lula’s inauguration.

“The army will come next,” Magno Rodrigues, 60, a former mechanic and janitor, said in an interview on 31 December, the day before Mr. Lula was to take office. He camped outside the army headquarters for nine weeks and said he was “ready to stay for a lifetime if I have to.”

One of Mr. Lula’s central challenges as president will be unifying the nation after a bitter election in which some of his supporters branded Mr. Bolsonaro a genocidal and cannibal, while Mr. Bolsonaro repeatedly called Mr. Lula a criminal . (Mr. Lula served 19 months in prison on corruption charges but was later released.)

Polls have shown a large proportion of the population say they believe Mr Lula stole the election, driven by false claims spreading on the internet and a shift among many right-wing voters away from traditional sources of news – problems that have plagued American politics in recent years.

President Biden, who was visiting the southern US border, called the protests “outrageous”, and his national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States “condemns any attempt to undermine democracy in Brazil”. “

“Our support for Brazil’s democratic institutions is unwavering,” Mr. Sullivan wrote on twitter, “Brazilian democracy will not be shaken by violence.”

However, some far-right provocateurs in the United States cheered the attacks, posting videos of the riots and calling the protesters “patriots” who were trying to uphold Brazil’s constitution. President Donald J. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon called the protesters “Brazilian freedom fighters” in a social-media post. Mr. Bannon has had a close relationship with one of Mr. Bolsonaro’s sons.

First, it was relatively easy for rioters to breach buildings. State police officers tried to stop them, But their number was very large. The demonstrations were widely advertised on social media for several days.

“It was scary, it was madness,” said Adriana Reis, 30, a cleaner in Congress, who witnessed the scene. “They tried hard to disperse them, with pepper spray, but I don’t think the police could handle them all.” After the protesters came inside, “we ran to hide,” she said.

Videos from inside Congress, the Supreme Court and the president’s offices quickly filled social media feeds and group chats, showing protesters wearing their national flags and trudging through the halls of power, unsure whether What To Do Next.

They sat in the padded chairs of the Chamber of Deputies, rummaged through paperwork in the presidential offices and gazed at the Supreme Court chambers with golden coats of arms bursting from the wall. Federal officials later distributed images and video from presidential offices showing destroyed computers, art ripped from frames, and gun cases emptied from guns.

The protesters were vandalizing buildings that have been praised as gems of modernist architecture. For example, designed in the 1950s by famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Supreme Court has columns made of concrete clad in white marble that echo the sound of a sheet flapping in the wind. And Congress is known to be capped with both a dome, under which the Senate is located, and a bowl of sorts, under which the House is located.

Outside the presidential offices, they raised the flag of the Brazilian Empire, the period before Brazil became a democracy in the 19th century, and sang the Brazilian national anthem. Video of the commotion shows several protesters raising phones, filming the scene.

“There’s no way to stop the people,” declared one protester as he live-streamed hundreds of protesters on the roof of Congress. “Subscribe to my channel, guys.”

Several news outlets stated that their reporters were attacked and robbed during the riots. According to his wife, Cristina Lino, Mr. Lula’s official photographer Ricardo Stuckert had his passport and equipment worth more than $95,000 stolen from a room in the president’s office.

By noon the army trucks had arrived.

Armed soldiers entered the presidential office through a back door to ambush the rioters. Shortly afterwards, protesters began pouring out of the building, some escorted by law enforcement officers.

By 9 p.m., more than seven hours after the invasion began, Brazilian Justice Minister Flavio Dino said that the buildings had been cleared. He said authorities have arrested at least 200 people. The governor of Brasilia said that the number of arrests had exceeded 400.

Valdemar Costa Neto, head of Mr Bolsonaro’s right-wing Liberal party, criticized the protesters.

“Today is a sad day for the Brazilian nation,” he said in a statement. “All orderly demonstrations are legitimate. Disorder has never been part of our country’s principles.”

The Brazilian flag draped around many rioters on Sunday includes three words: “Order and progress.”

Reporting was contributed by Ana Ionova, Yann Bochat, leonardo coelhoLys Martins and Gustavo Freitas.

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