Brazil marks 1 year since pro-Bolsonaro mob stormed capital over election loss

Brazil on Monday observed the anniversary of last year’s uprising in the capital when thousands of supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro invaded government buildings and called for a military intervention to remove President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from office.

Several demonstrations in defense of democracy were taking place across the South American country, hours after Federal Police carried out dozens of search warrants as part of its ongoing investigation targeting those responsible for the mayhem.

Prosecution plus a ban on Bolsonaro from running for office stands in contrast to the U.S., where Donald Trump is running again for president and has been dominating the campaign for the Republican nomination so far, even though he faces federal and state charges.

On Sunday night in the capital, Brasilia, the words “Democracy Unites Us” were projected on Congress’ annex buildings that tower behind its chambers.

The Supreme Court inaugurated an exhibition about “reconstruction, memory and democracy” displaying damaged pieces and other tangible traces of the attack, and Congress hosted another pro-democracy event, where officials presented a tapestry by renowned artist Roberto Burle Marx that was damaged by rioters and painstakingly restored. The latter event was attended by roughly 500 guests, including Lula, members of his Cabinet, Supreme Court justices, Senate president Rodrigo Pacheco and top military brass.

“Thousands of seemingly ordinary people were moved by falsehoods, conspiracy theories and resentment,” Supreme Court president Luís Roberto Barroso said. “They were transformed into criminals, apprentice terrorists … A sad defeat of the spirit.”

Street demonstrations took place in the afternoon on the streets of cities across Brazil, but there was little sign of opposing protests defending those who rioted and have faced prosecution. At a demonstration in Rio, some 500 people gathered. Many of them characterized Jan. 8 as an attempted coup, including Penélope Toledo, 42.

“It didn’t start on that day and it didn’t finish that day, because we are conquering democracy daily and, if we waver, a coup will come,” said Toledo, who works in the communications department of government health research institute Fiocruz. “If we waver, the forces damaging to society will return. That date represents our fight, it represents the resistance of the Brazilian people.”

On Jan. 8, 2023, Latin America’s largest country teetered on the brink of democratic meltdown when pro-Bolsonaro rioters bypassed security barricades around the presidential palace, Congress and the Supreme Court, climbed onto roofs, smashed windows, urinated on precious art and damaged historic Brazilian memorabilia.

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