Brazil police ‘let protesters in’ says Lula, as security chief and Bolsonaro ally sacked

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Brazilian police “let the protesters in”, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has said, after hundreds of supporters of Brazil’s far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed prominent government buildings on Sunday afternoon in an attempt to overturn his election defeat in October.

The Brazilian president criticised the police for their inaction after rioters burst through security barriers in the country’s capital Brasilia, forcing their way into the presidential palace, Supreme Court and Congress buildings, destroying much of their interior.

 “The police didn’t do anything at all. They just let the protesters in,” he said. While many police officers did try to hold back the rioters, others were spotted nonchalantly taking selfies with Bolsonaro supporters. 

Ibaneis Rocha, the Governor of Brasilia, fired the capital’s public security chief, Anderson Torres, who previously served as Bolsonaro’s justice minister.

The attorney general’s office said it had asked the Supreme Court to issue arrest warrants for Torres “and all other public officials responsible for acts and omissions” leading to the unrest.

It also asked the high court to authorise the use of “all public security forces” to take back federal buildings and disperse anti-government protests nationwide.

Bolsonaro was known to enjoy high levels of support from inside the police during his administration.

A military police officer falls from his horse during clashes with supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro after an invasion to Planalto Presidential Palace in Brasilia


Hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters invade the headquarters of the National Congress

Credit: ANDRE BORGES/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Shutterstock

Rioters storm the National Congress in Brasilia

Brazil’s President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, center, inspects the damage at Planalto Palace

So far, 300 people have been arrested, the federal district’s civil police said on Twitter.

Police used tear gas in an attempt to contain the mob as security guards sought cover and protesters made their way onto the roof of the modernist Congress building.

Inside the edifice, criminals used furniture to erect barricades.

In a news conference late Sunday, Brazil’s minister of institutional relations said the buildings would be inspected for evidence including fingerprints and images to hold people to account, and that the rioters apparently intended to spark similar such actions nationwide. 

A Bolsonaro supporter is evacuated after being wounded during clashes with riot police

Security forces operate as rioters demonstrate against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Bolsonaro supporters demonstrate against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Security forces confront Bolsonaro supporters who invaded Planalto Presidential Palace in Brasilia on January 8

Justice Minister Flavio Dino said the acts amounted to terrorism and coup-mongering and that authorities have begun tracking those who paid for the buses that transported protesters to the capital.

“They will not succeed in destroying Brazilian democracy. We need to say that fully, with all firmness and conviction,” Dino said. “We will not accept the path of criminality to carry out political fights in Brazil. A criminal is treated like a criminal.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned any attempt to undermine the peaceful transfer of power and the democratic will of the people of Brazil, after supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro ransacked government buildings.

Sunak said that Brazil’s new leader President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his government “has the United Kingdom’s full support”.