Pro-Bolsonaro protesters storm Brazil’s Congress, high court and presidential palace

In an echo of Jan. 6 in the U.S., thousands of demonstrators invaded the three buildings, with some calling on the military to intervene in politics.


Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who refuse to accept his electoral defeat stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential palace in the capital Sunday, just a week after the inauguration of his leftist rival, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Thousands of demonstrators bypassed security barricades, climbed on the roofs, broke windows and invaded all three buildings, which are connected through the vast Three Powers square in Brasilia. Some are calling for a military intervention to restore the far-right Bolsonaro to power, or oust Lula from the presidency.

Hours went by before control of the buildings on Brasilia’s vast Three Powers Square was reestablished, with hundreds of the participants arrested.


In a news conference from Sao Paulo state, Lula said Bolsonaro had encouraged the uprising by those he termed “fascist fanatics,” and he read a freshly signed decree for the federal government to take control of security in the federal district.

Bolsonaro supporters in yellow and green storm the presidential palace.
Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro storm the presidential palace in Brasilia on Sunday.
(Eraldo Peres / Associated Press)

“There is no precedent for what they did and these people need to be punished,” Lula said.

TV channel Globo News showed protesters wearing the green and yellow colors of the national flag that also have come to symbolize the nation’s conservative movement, and were adopted by Bolsonaro’s supporters.

The former president has repeatedly sparred with Supreme Court justices, and the room where they convene was trashed by the rioters. They sprayed fire hoses inside the Congress building and ransacked offices at the presidential palace. Windows were broken in all of the buildings.

Brazil’s defense ministry has issued a report that mentions flaws in the country’s electoral systems but contains nothing to back up claims of fraud.

Nov. 10, 2022

Bolsonaro, who flew to Florida ahead of Lula’s inauguration, repudiated the president’s accusation about him late Sunday. He wrote on Twitter that peaceful protest is part of democracy but vandalism and invasion of public buildings are “exceptions to the rule.”

Police fired tear gas to try to regain control of the buildings. About 6:30 p.m., less than four hours after the storming, security forces were shown on television backing protesters away from the Supreme Court and marching them down a ramp to the presidential palace with their hands secured behind their backs. Justice Minister Flavio Dino said in a news conference that roughly 200 people had been arrested, and officers were firing more tear gas to drive lingering protesters from the area.


But with the damage already done, many in Brazil were questioning how the police had ignored abundant warnings, were unprepared or were somehow complicit.

Lula said at his news conference there was “incompetence or bad faith″ on the part of police, and that they had been likewise complacent when Bolsonaro supporters rioted in the capital weeks ago. He promised those officers would be punished and expelled from the corps.

Brazil's Congress is surrounded by people in yellow and green.
Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro storm the Congress building in Brasilia on Sunday.
(Eraldo Peres / Associated Press)

The incidents recalled the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Trump. Political analysts have warned for months that a similar storming was a possibility in Brazil, given that Bolsonaro has sown doubt about the reliability of the nation’s electronic voting system — without any evidence. The results were recognized as legitimate by politicians from across the spectrum, as well as dozens of foreign governments.

Unlike in the 2021 attack in the U.S., it is likely that few officials were working in the Brazilian Congress and Supreme Court on a Sunday.

President Biden told reporters that the riots in Brazil were “outrageous.” His national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, went a step further on Twitter and said the U.S. “condemns any effort to undermine democracy in Brazil.”


Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is sworn in as president of Brazil after defeating Jair Bolsonaro in the tightest presidential race in over three decades.

Jan. 1, 2023

Biden later tweeted that he looked forward to continuing to work with Lula, calling the riots an “assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil.”

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted: “The violent attempts to undermine democracy in Brazil are unjustifiable. President @LulaOficial and the government of Brazil have the full support of the UK.”

Videos on social media showed a limited presence of the capital’s military police; one showed officers standing by as people flooded into Congress, with one using his phone to record images. The capital’s security secretariat didn’t immediately respond to a request from the Associated Press for comment about the relative absence of the police.

“Brazilian authorities had two years to learn the lessons from the Capitol invasion and to prepare themselves for something similar in Brazil,” said Mauricio Santoro, political science professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. “Local security forces in Brasilia failed in a systematic way to prevent and to respond to extremist actions in the city. And the new federal authorities, such as the ministers of justice and of defense, were not able to act in a decisive way.”

Federal District Gov. Ibaneis Rocha confirmed on Twitter that he had fired the capital city’s head of public security, Anderson Torres.

The office of Lula’s attorney general asked the Supreme Court to order Torres’ imprisonment.

Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting Lula’s electoral win since Oct. 30, blocking roads, setting vehicles on fire and gathering outside military buildings, asking armed forces to intervene. The head of Brazil’s electoral authority rejected the request from Bolsonaro and his political party to nullify ballots cast on most electronic voting machines.

“This absurd attempt to impose their will by force will not prevail,” said Justice Minister Flavio Dino on his Twitter account. “The government of the Federal District has ensured there will be reinforcements. And the forces at our disposal are at work.”