On Sunday (Jan. 8), rioters in support of the former president of Brazil stormed the buildings of Congress, the presidential palace, and the federal Supreme Court in the capital of Brasilia. The mob of far-right individuals numbered in the thousands, smashed windows, set fires while, ransacked offices, and made off with official documents and weaponry. Federal troops were able to regain control and push them out after three hours of their actions.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva swiftly condemned the rioters, stating that the “fanatical fascists” responsible “will be found and they will be punished,” laying the blame squarely on Bolsonaro. His office, along with House Speaker Arthur Lira, Chief Justice Rosa Weber of the Supreme Court, and Veneziano Vital do Rego, the deputy president of the Senate officially declared the riots “acts of terrorism” in a statement Monday (Jan. 9) morning.
The footage and photos from the riots showed scenes eerily similar to the storming of the U.S. Capitol by insurrectionists who were supporters of former President Donald Trump Jan. 6, 2021. Bolsonaro, like Trump, had vehemently claimed that the election which he lost by two percentage points to his leftist opponent in October was “stolen.” He refused to attend the inauguration last week, flying to Florida instead.
According to authorities, over 1,200 people were detained in Brasilia. Ibaneis Rocha, Governor of Brasilia stated on Sunday night that they had arrested 400 of the rioters. But Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered that Rocha, a Bolsonaro ally, be removed from his position for 90 days due to an investigation into his possible involvement in the unrest. Outside observers also noted that local police allowed some rioters through barricades before they began to vandalize the buildings. Journalists on the scene also reported being violently attacked by rioters.
Bolsonaro issued a statement decrying the violence on Sunday night through social media and denied his involvement. Congressional Democrats, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, issued calls for President Joe Biden to extradite Bolsonaro back to Brazil in the wake of the riots. President Biden issued his condemnation of the events through social media, with no further word on if there would be steps to revoke Bolsonaro’s visa.