Brazilian police deployed at a camp of supporters of far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro in the capital on Monday, a day after rioters launched the worst attack on Brazil’s state institutions since its return to democracy in the 1980s.
Hundreds of police in riot gear and some on horseback amassed at the encampment near Brasilia’s army headquarters, while soldiers in the area withdrew, Reuters witnesses said, after Sunday’s storming by thousands of Bolsonaro’s backers of Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro’s leftist rival who took office on Jan. 1 after a narrow October election win, promised to bring those responsible for the violence to justice, after demonstrators broke windows and furniture, destroyed art work and stole guns and artifacts.
U.S. President Joe Biden joined other world leaders in condemning the attacks, calling them “outrageous”, while Bolsonaro who is now in Florida denied inciting his supporters and said the rioters had “crossed the line”.
Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered the governor of Brasilia removed from office late on Sunday for 90 days over alleged security failings. He also ordered social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and TikTok to block accounts of users spreading anti-democratic propaganda.
Facebook parent Meta (META.O) said on Monday it was removing content supporting or praising the weekend ransacking of Brazilian government buildings. Telegram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Lula, a former union organizer who was also president from 2003 to 2010, said the local militarized police force that reports to Brasilia Governor Ibaneis Rocha, a former Bolsonaro ally, did nothing to stop the protesters advancing.
Lula decreed federal intervention of public security in the capital and promised exemplary punishment for the leaders of the “fascist” assault that was aimed at provoking a military coup that could restore Bolsonaro to power.
“All the people who did this will be found and punished,” Lula told reporters from Sao Paulo State.
He blamed Bolsonaro for inflaming his supporters after a campaign of baseless allegations about election fraud after the end of his rule marked by divisive nationalist populism.
From Florida, where Bolsonaro flew 48 hours before his term ended, the former president rejected the accusation. He said on Twitter that peaceful demonstrations were democratic but the invasion of government buildings “crossed the line.”
The assault raised questions among Lula’s allies about how security forces in the capital were so unprepared and easily overwhelmed by rioters who had discussed plans on social media for days about gathering for weekend demonstrations.
The invasion recalled the assault on the U.S. Capitol two years ago by backers of former President Donald Trump, drawing condemnation from Biden, European leaders, Latin American heads of state and others.
“The violent attacks on democratic institutions are an attack on democracy that cannot be tolerated,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned any bid to undermine the peaceful transfer of power.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia condemned “in the strongest terms” the actions of those behind the disorder.
Brazilian markets are expected to take a knock when they open on Monday.
Police retook the damaged public buildings in the futuristic capital after three hours and dispersed the crowd with tear gas.
Justice Minister Flavio Dino said 200 demonstrators had been arrested. Governor Rocha, writing on Twitter before the court announced its move, put the number at 400.
Dino said investigations would aim to uncover who financed the several hundred buses that brought Bolsonaro’s supporters to Brasilia and also probe Rocha for not preparing security.
The occupation of the government buildings had been planned for at least two weeks by Bolsonaro’s supporters in groups on social media messaging platforms such as Telegram and Twitter, yet there was no move by security forces to prevent the attack, called by one group “the seizure of power by the people.”
Messages seen by Reuters throughout the week showed members of such groups organizing meeting points in several cities around the country, from where chartered buses would leave for Brasilia, with the intention to occupy public buildings.
The plan included camping in front of Brasilia’s army command headquarters, where demonstrators have been since Lula narrowly won the election in October.
In the early afternoon of Sunday, when the protesters began to arrive on Brasilia’s esplanade, instead of being contained, they were escorted by Military Police cars with flashing lights.
Riot police only arrived on the scene two hours after the invasions began.
Bolsonaro faces legal risks from several investigations before the Supreme Court in Brazil and his future in the United States, where he traveled on a visa issued only to sitting presidents, is in question.
“Bolsonaro should not be in Florida,” Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro said on CNN. “The United States should not be a refuge for this authoritarian who has inspired domestic terrorism in Brazil. He should be sent back to Brazil.”