Brazilian Election Protest Becomes Chaotic Riot

Rioters invading government buildings in Brazil’s capital city of Brasilia.

The scenes on January 8th, 2023, looked familiar to viewers in the United States and all over the world. People wore the colors of their country and their carried nation’s flag as they went past police barriers, broke windows, and illegally entered government buildings. Many people were reminded of the attack on the Capitol building in the United States on January 6, 2021. However, this was not Washington, D.C., in the United States. This was Brasilia in Brazil.

In November, Brazil had an election. Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, beat President Jair Bolsonaro to become president again. It was a close election and bitterly contested. Like President Donald Trump in the United States, Bolsonaro did not accept the results of the election. He said Lula cheated and the results of some voting machines should not count. However, he did not present convincing evidence. Brazilian courts ruled that Lula won fairly and the election was ratified [made official]. Lula became president and Bolsonaro travelled to Miami, Florida.

Bolsonaro supporters continued to protest the election. They planned a large protest, demanding that Lula step down. On January 8th, 100 busses of protestors arrived in Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil. They stormed the headquarters of all three branches of Brazilian government: the Supreme Court building, the presidential palace, and the National Congress building. The protest had become a riot. It was a Sunday, so not many people were in the buildings. Lula was in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo at the time.

The crowd vandalized the buildings, damaging valuable art among other things. Only 365 military police were there, and they could not stop the riot. The government called in almost 3,000 reinforcements to disperse [break up] the crowd. They arrested around 400 of the rioters. Jair Bolsonaro condemned the riots from Miami and encouraged peaceful protests. Lula promised to punish those responsible. It will take a long time to restore order to Brazil.

What Do You Think Recently, people have had trouble agreeing with the results of elections, especially when their side loses. What can be done to help people trust the results of elections?

Photo Credit: Matheus Alves/dpa picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo