RIO DE JANEIRO ( Associated Press) – “No apologies! No apologies! No apologies!”
Chants echoed through the walls of the packed lobby of the University of Sao Paulo Law School on Monday afternoon. Hours later, that was the motto of thousands of Brazilians who took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, bearing posters and flags.
The words are a demand that supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro who stormed the Brazilian capital on Sunday and those who enabled the attack be punished.
“These people should be punished, the people who ordered this should be punished, the people who paid for it should be punished,” said Betty Amin, a 61-year-old doctor on São Paulo’s main boulevard. The word ‘democracy’ was written on the back of his T-shirt. “They do not represent Brazil. We represent Brazil”.
The demand for accountability is reminiscent of an amnesty law that has protected soldiers accused of abuses and killings during the country’s dictatorship between 1964 and 1985 for decades. A Truth Commission report in 2014 opened up a debate about how Brazil has managed the legacy of the regime.
“Avoiding sanctions may avoid tensions, but it perpetuates instability,” Luis Felipe Miguel, professor of political science at the University of Brasilia, published Monday afternoon in a column titled “Amnesty No.” “That’s the lesson we should have learned from the end of the military dictatorship, when Brazil decided not to punish the murderers and tyrants of the regime.”
Brazilian police had already detained about 1,500 rioters on Monday, some of them involved in vandalizing Brazil’s Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace, although most were held in a camp in Brasilia. I was taken into custody the next morning. Many spent the day at a gym, and videos shared on pro-Bolsonaro social media channels showed many complaining about their poor treatment at the crowded venue.
According to the police press office, federal police are planning to press charges against at least 1,000 people and have begun transferring some to nearby Papuda prison.
The government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva says this is only the beginning.
Justice Minister Flavio Dino, who promised to prosecute for crimes such as organized crime, attempted coup and violent subversion of the democratic rule of law, worked behind the scenes to summon supporters on social media and finance his transfer. He also said authorities would investigate allegations that local security personnel allowed the destruction to continue unabated.
“We cannot and will not compromise on fulfilling our legal duties,” Dino said. “This is necessary so that these acts are not repeated.”
Lula signed a decree on Sunday ordering the federal government to take over the security of the capital. It was approved by the lower house of Congress on Monday and will now go to the Senate.
The riots in Brasilia were a reminder of the threat to democracy by far-right elements, who refuse to accept Bolsonaro’s electoral defeat. Since his defeat on October 30, he has camped in front of military barracks to demand intervention from the military to allow Bolsonaro to remain in power and overthrow Lula. When the coup did not happen, he himself rebelled.
Dressed in the green and yellow of the national flag, they smashed windows, overturned furniture and threw computers and printers to the ground. They punched holes in a giant painting by Emiliano di Cavalcanti in the presidential palace and destroyed other works of art. They overturned the U-shaped table where federal Supreme Court justices meet, smashed the door of a judge’s office and vandalized a statue outside the court. Hours passed before the police dispersed the crowd.
“What happened yesterday is unacceptable. This is terrorism,” Marcelo Menezes, a 59-year-old police officer from the northeastern state of Pernambuco, said at a protest in Sao Paulo. “I’m here to defend democracy. I’m here to defend the people.”
“Amnesty no!” They were also heard during Lula’s inaugural speech on 1 January, when the president listed cases of neglect by the outgoing Bolsonaro government.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has fanned nostalgia for the dictatorial era, hailing a notorious tyrant as a hero and saying the regime should have gone further by executing communists. His government also celebrated the anniversary of the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état.
Political analysts have reiterated that Bolsonaro was laying the groundwork for an uprising in the image of the January 6, 2021 uprising at the United States Capitol. For months, he fueled the belief among his staunch supporters that the country’s electronic voting system was vulnerable to fraud, though he never presented any evidence and independent experts disagreed.
The election results, the closest since Brazil’s return to democracy, were quickly recognized by members of the political spectrum, including some Bolsonaro allies and dozens of governments. And Bolsonaro surprised nearly everyone by disappearing from the public eye. He neither admitted defeat nor condemned fraud, although he and his party filed a request to nullify the millions of votes cast, a request that was promptly rejected.
None of this has deterred his most loyal supporters from their belief that Bolsonaro should stay in power.
In the immediate aftermath of the riots, Lula said that the so-called “hardcore fascists” and their financial backers should take responsibility. He also accused Bolsonaro of encouraging the rebellion.
Bolsonaro rejected the president’s allegation on Sunday night. In a tweet, he declared that peaceful protests are part of a democracy, but that vandalism and invasion of public buildings are “exceptions to the norm”.
Authorities were also probing the role of the Federal District Police, either failing to stop the progress of the protesters or stepping aside to allow them to wreak havoc. The capital’s prosecutor’s office said that at the very least, local security forces had been negligent. A federal Supreme Court judge suspended the regional governor responsible for the police force from his post, accusing him of “willful omission”. Another judge accused authorities across the country of failing to swiftly crack down on “domestic neo-fascism”.
The episode eventually prompted municipal and state governments to disband pro-Bolsonaro camps in front of military barracks that had been operating since the election. Their tents and tarpaulins were removed and the campers were driven out.
But on Monday, pro-democracy protesters tried to make sure their message (“No amnesty!”) reached the authorities responsible for investigating and prosecuting, as well as far-right elements who are ready to challenge democracy again. can dare.
“After what happened yesterday, we have to take to the streets,” said Marcos Gama, a retiree protesting in Sao Paulo on Monday night. “We have to react.”
Associated Press video journalist Felipe Mello reported from Sao Paulo.