Chaos in Brazil: Protesters Storm Capital, Destroying Supreme Court and Congress

Thousands of opponents of socialist convicted felon President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva stormed his offices and the headquarters of the Congress and Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) of Brazil on Sunday, reportedly demolishing the facades of two of the three buildings and causing “irreparable” damage to priceless artifacts in the chambers.

The riot in Brasilia occurred while Lula himself was in Sao Paulo state assessing the damage of recent floods. Lula, in a public statement following police action to subdue the protesters, announced an official “federal intervention” in Brasilia – consolidating the public security powers of several agencies into the hands of a hand-picked, top-level official – and accused police of acting in “bad faith” in failing to prevent the protesters from storming the buildings.

The incident is an offshoot of months of protests following the October presidential election that saw Lula narrowly defeat then-incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro in two rounds of voting. Most protesters support Bolsonaro but, more broadly, oppose Lula’s victory as illegitimate on several grounds, including his multiple convictions on charges of corrupt acts occurring during his first two terms as president. An audit of the 2022 runoff presidential election, which featured only Bolsonaro and Lula as candidates, by the Armed Forces of Brazil concluded that no guarantee could be made of the absence of fraud or irregularities.

Protesters also accuse the STF, particularly its head justice Alexandre de Moraes, of intervening in the election by censoring mentions of Lula’s corruption case and silencing Bolsonaro supporters through fines and police raids.

Lula’s inauguration on January 1 occurred without major incident and Lula used his powers to immediately begin undoing Bolsonaro policies, most notably sharply limiting civilian access to firearms. Last month, Lula’s pick for justice minister, Flavio Dino, referred to anti-Lula protest groups as “incubators of terrorism.”

Many of the protesters convening in Brasilia on Sunday are part of a movement demanding that the nation’s military oust Lula. They insist that their demand is not for a coup d’etat, but for a “military intervention” they say the Brazilian constitution provides for in the event of an illegitimate election.

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