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Pro-Bolsonaro supporters in Brazil arrested after storming Congress to protest election loss. Here’s what we know so far.

More than 4,000 supporters of Jair Bolsonaro arrived in Brasilia for a protest that quickly turned into a riot reminiscent of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Images show what unfolded on Sunday.

A protester in a yellow T-shirt inside the National Congress waves Brazil's flag through a window, looking out onto supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro preparing to come in.
A man waves a Brazilian flag through an open window at Brazil's National Congress in Brasília, as supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrate against President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Sunday. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)

LONDON — Supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the country’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace on Sunday to protest his recent election loss, resulting in scenes reminiscent of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in 2021.

What is happening in Brazil?

On Sunday, more than 100 buses with roughly 4,000 Bolsonaro supporters arrived in the capital of Brasília for a planned protest over the presidential election results. However, just hours into the protest, people managed to break police barriers and stormed Brazil’s top political institutions, where they defaced government buildings.

Crowds of protesters draped in Brazilian flags and wearing Brazil soccer shirts were filmed breaking windows and destroying furniture, while parts of the Congress building were left flooded after the sprinkler system was set off. Newly inaugurated President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a leftist widely known as Lula, was forced to call upon emergency powers to quell the rioters. Two police cars were damaged in the riot, which continued for three hours.

Protesters, mostly dressed in yellow and turquoise T-shirts, swarm up a ramp at the National Congress.
Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the National Congress building in Brasília on Sunday. (Eraldo Peres/AP)

The next day, police shut down an encampment that was held outside Brazil’s military headquarters, where demonstrators settled following the previous day’s uprising. Of the 1,500 arrested, 300 were detained on Sunday and another 1,200 were detained on Monday.

In a show of support for Lula, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro demanding those involved in the uprising be punished. “These people need to be punished, the people who ordered it need to be punished, those who gave money for it need to be punished,” a woman protesting the riot told Associated Press.

Why are they protesting?

Brazil’s presidential election, which was held in October, was one of the tightest races the country has seen in years. Lula won the polarizing election with just 50.9% of the vote. Since his loss, Bolsonaro has refused to concede to his rival and has echoed his previous remarks that Brazil’s elections are not free. Over a month after his loss, Bolsonaro argued that some voting machines should be “invalidated.”

Supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro destroy a window from an outside deck, which has a few barricades..
Supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro destroy a window of the the plenary of the Supreme Court in Brasília on Sunday. (Ton Molina/AFP via Getty Images)

Protesters on Sunday were demanding the election be overturned and the reinstatement of Bolsonaro as president. They called for the military to intervene to prevent Lula, who was away in São Paulo during the riot, from returning to office.

Nearly one month ago, a mob attacked police headquarters in Brasília, when Bolsonaro’s defeat in the presidential race had been certified.

What has Lula said?

Lula condemned Sunday’s riot as “terrorist attacks,” and accused the country’s security forces of allowing rioters to reach government buildings. “The Brasília police neglected [the attack threat], Brasília’s intelligence neglected it,” Lula said on Monday.

“It is easy to see in the footage the police officers talking to the attackers," he said, going on to allege "explicit connivance" of police with the demonstrators. Brazil’s presidential communications minister, Paulo Pimenta, claimed on Monday that the riot could not have happened without “some level of facilitation” and added that the doors of the presidential palace and Congress were not broken — alleging the doors were opened for protesters.

In a photo taken through a cracked window broken by a blow, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and other officials inspect the damage at Planalto Palace.
Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva inspects the damage at Planalto Palace in Brasília after it was stormed by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday. (Eraldo Peres/AP)

“The main door was not broken, so people walked in through the door,” Pimenta said. “In the Congress building, the door was not damaged either. At the Supreme Court, you can see the door was destroyed — which clearly leads me to believe that investigations will mostly likely indicate that they may have come in here [into the Planalto presidential palace] and in the National Congress through the main door.”

What has Bolsonaro said?

Speaking from Florida, Bolsonaro rejected the accusations that he spurred on his supporters. He called the peaceful demonstrations democratic but said that some people had “crossed the line.”

President Jair Bolsonaro speaks in a library setting at a conference table, with a woman sitting beside him.
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro speaks in Brasília on Dec. 30, 2022, in this screen grab taken from social media. (Presidency of Brazil/Handout via Reuters)

Days before his term ended on Dec. 31, Bolsonaro traveled to the U.S., where he has since been lying low. On Monday, he posted to Twitter that he had been discharged from a hospital in Orlando, Fla., after suffering from stomach pains relating to an injury he sustained from a stabbing during his election campaign in 2018.

What has the Biden administration said?

“I condemn the assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil,” President Biden tweeted on Sunday. “Brazil’s democratic institutions have our full support, and the will of the Brazilian people must not be undermined.” According to a statement from the White House, Biden and Lula spoke on Monday during a call in which Biden “conveyed the unwavering support of the United States for Brazil’s democracy and for the free will of the Brazilian people.

Planalto Presidential Palace security members gingerly step through a morass of papers and toppled furniture strewn over the floor in an office.
Planalto Presidential Palace security members on Monday inspect offices destroyed by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasília. (Carl DeSouza/AFP via Getty Images)

"President Biden condemned the violence and the attack on democratic institutions and on the peaceful transfer of power," the statement read. "The two leaders pledged to work closely together on the issues confronting the United States and Brazil, including climate change, economic development, and peace and security."

During the call, Lula accepted Biden's invitation to visit Washington, D.C., in February, the White House added.

Meanwhile, Biden is facing pressure to extradite Bolsonaro back to Brazil. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted: “Nearly 2 years to the day the US Capitol was attacked by fascists, we see fascist movements abroad attempt to do the same in Brazil. The US must cease granting refuge to Bolsonaro in Florida.”

Other Democrats, including Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, also called for Bolsonaro’s extradition.

More images from the protest

A protester in a yellow T-shirt waves a Brazilian flag through an open window at the Planalto Palace.
A supporter of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro waves a Brazilian national flag from a window after storming the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on Sunday. (Eraldo Peres/AP)
Supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro rampage through the Federal Senate. One protester sits on a central desk with his feet on a protective barrier in front of it, another is draped in a Brazilian flag, and another films themself and the others with a cellphone..
Bolsonaro supporters occupy the floor of the Federal Senate in Brasília on Sunday. (EyePress News/Shutterstock)
Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the Supreme Court building in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (Eraldo Peres/AP)
Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the Supreme Court building in Brasília, on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (Eraldo Peres/AP)
A military police officer falls from his horse during clashes with supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro after an invasion to Planalto Presidential Palace in Brasilia on January 8, 2023. (Sergio Lima/AFP via Getty Images)
A military police officer falls from his horse during clashes with supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro after an invasion to Planalto Presidential Palace in Brasília on January 8, 2023. (Sergio Lima/AFP via Getty Images)
A helicopter hovers above supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro and clouds of what may be tear gas rise over the plaza.
A helicopter hovers over supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, as they clash with police at the Planalto Palace in Brasília, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. Planalto is the official workplace of the president of Brazil. (Eraldo Peres/AP)
A supporter of former President Jair Bolsonaro outstretches her arms in front of a phalanx of security forces at the National Congress
A supporter of former President Jair Bolsonaro outstretches her arms in front of a phalanx of security forces at the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Joedson Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
In a view through a broken window, supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro clash with security forces as they break into Planalto Palace and raid Supreme Court in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Joedson Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Image
Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro clash with security forces as they break into Planalto Palace and raid Supreme Court in Brasília, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Joedson Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Police confront supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro invading Planalto Palace, in Brasília, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Andre Borges/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Police confront supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro invading Planalto Palace, in Brasília, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Andre Borges/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
A supporter of former President Jair Bolsonaro steps over downed barricades.
A supporter of former President Jair Bolsonaro steps over barricades at Planalto Palace and Supreme Court in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Joedson Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro sit on the ground with clouds of tear gas in the background. One is prostrated on the cement.
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro try to recover during a demonstration against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, outside Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)
Members of the Federal Legislative Police stand next a vehicle that crashed into a fountain as supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro invade the National Congress in Brasilia on January 8, 2023. (Sergio Lima/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the Federal Legislative Police stand next a vehicle that crashed into a fountain as supporters of Brazilian former President Jair Bolsonaro invade the National Congress in Brasilia on January 8, 2023. (Sergio Lima/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro clash with security forces as they raid the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Joedson Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro clash with security forces as they raid the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Joedson Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro hold a banner that reads in Portuguese: Military Intervention.
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro hold a banner that reads, in Portuguese, "Military Intervention" as they storm the the National Congress building in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (Eraldo Peres/AP)
Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro clash with security forces as they break into Planalto Palace.
Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro clash with security forces as they break into Planalto Palace and raid Supreme Court in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 8, 2023. (Joedson Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro  climb onto the roof of the National Congress, with a banner saying: All Power Comes From the People.
Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro climb onto the roof of the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 8, 2023. (Joedson Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro break into a building.
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro break into a building during a demonstration against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brasília on Jan. 8, 2023. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro rush up a ramp in Planalto Palace.
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro rush up a ramp in Planalto Palace, during a demonstration against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Brasília, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)
Security forces fire from the National Congress.
Security forces fire from the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Mateus Bonomi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro vandalize an office in Planalto Palace.
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro vandalize a room in Planalto Palace during a demonstration against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)
Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, look out from a shattered window.
Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, look out from a shattered window after they storm the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (Eraldo Peres/AP)
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro vandalize the interior of Planalto Palace, breaking out the glass containing a set of firehoses and a fire extinguisher.
Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro vandalize the interior of Planalto Palace during a demonstration against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)
Police in riot gear are seen through a shattered window as they form up outside Planalto Palace.
Police in riot gear are seen through a shattered window as they form up outside Planalto Palace after protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (Eraldo Peres/AP)
Security forces operate as supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrate against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Planalto Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)
Security forces operate as supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrate against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Planalto Palace, in Brasília on Jan. 8. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)
Security forces detain supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro.
Security forces detain supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro at a demonstration against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Brasília Jan. 8, 2023. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)
A row of police move on as a supporter of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro kneels in front of downed barricades outside Planalto Palace.
A row of police move on as a supporter of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro kneels in front of downed barricades outside Planalto Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2023. (Andre Borges/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)