Governor suspended after assault on government offices, over 1,000 protesters arrested

By January 9, 2023

São Paulo, Brazil — Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered the suspension of the Governor of Federal District, Ibaneis Rocha, for his negligence during an hours-long siege on government offices by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday. Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered a 90-day suspension for the governor of Brazil’s capital city. 

The governor was criticized for his negligence and lack of security planning, which led to thousands of Bolsonaro supporters assaulting government offices, including the Supreme Court, Congress and the official workplace of the president. 

In his decision, Judge Moraes said that there was “omission and connivance” by authorities in the area of ​​security and intelligence in the Federal District, including the governor.

“The governor ignored the authorities’ appeals to carry out a security plan, in particular, with the prohibition of entry to the Esplanada dos Ministérios (the plaza where government offices are located) by the terrorists, and he even gave wide access,” said the judge.

Read more: Bolsonaro supporters assault Brazil’s government offices in January 6th-style attack

Hours after the attacks, Governor Rocha posted a video on social media in which he apologized for the incident. Rocha directed his apology at President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the presidents of the Congress and Supreme Court.

“What happened was simply unacceptable. We monitored these movements, but we did not believe, at any moment, that they would take on this proportion,” said the governor, who also called those involved in the invasion “true vandals and terrorists.”

Clearing of insurrectionist camps across the capital

Judge Moraes also ordered the immediate evacuation of Bolsonaro supporters from the area surrounding military barracks throughout the capital. Supporters have been camping out in front of the barracks since late October in an effort to pressure the military to intervene in the elections. 

Police and Army dismantle coup camp in Brasilia. Image courtesy of Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

A camp was dismantled early Monday morning, and 1,200 were reportedly arrested. 

On Sunday, 300 other people were arrested for their alleged involvement in the assault on government offices, which resulted in extensive damage and an unknown amount of security breaches. 

At least 40 buses were seized, which allegedly took Bolsonaro supporters from other cities to Brasília for the insurrection. Minister of Justice Flávio Dino said that authorities have already identified leaders and financiers of the invasion, but did not share names.

The minister expects further arrests and guaranteed the full support of law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting crimes. 

“This is terrorism. They will not be able to destroy our democracy,” he said.

President Lula on Sunday appointed Rodrigo Garcia Capelli, the executive secretary from the Ministry of Justice, to handle the federal government’s intervention in the situation in Brasília after it was deemed that state and district security forces failed to handle the situation. 

Read more: Lula orders federal intervention after Bolsonaro supporters storm Brazil’s government offices

“Justice will not be intimidated”

Brazil’s Supreme Court President, Rosa Weber, criticized the invasion, saying the court “will not be intimidated by criminal acts.” 

“The Supreme Court will act so that the terrorists who participated in these acts are duly judged and exemplarily punished,” she said.

Supreme Court plenary was completely destroyed by vandals. Image courtesy of Alex Rodrigues/Agência Brasil

Other Supreme Court justices also spoke out and criticized the acts of vandalism. 

Judge Moraes, who is also president of the Superior Electoral Court and one of the biggest targets of Bolsonaro and his supporters, said that “the justice system will not fail in Brazil.”

Moraes said that those responsible for the “despicable terrorist attacks on democracy and republican institutions will be held responsible, as well as the financiers, instigators, former and current public agents who continue in the illicit conduct of anti-democratic acts.”

Where is Bolsonaro?

Former President Bolsonaro has been in the United States since December 30 after refusing to attend Lula’s inauguration ceremony — breaking with years of tradition marking the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil. 

Nearly seven hours into the insurrection, Bolsonaro took to social media to address the assault on government headquarters.  

“Peaceful protests, in the form of the law, are part of democracy,” he said. “However, depredations and invasions of public buildings are not the norm.”

Destruction at the federal government office. Image courtesy of Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

Bolsonaro also responded to comments from Lula yesterday in which the president called his predecessor a “genocidal man”. He called Lula’s comments, “accusations without any proof.” 

U.S. politicians have called on the administration of President Joe Biden to stop allowing Bolsonaro refuge within the U.S. 

“Bolsonaro must not be given refuge in Florida, where he’s been hiding from accountability for his crimes,” said Representative Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from Texas. 

Biden called the situation “outrageous”. On Monday afternoon, Bolsonaro’s wife reported that her husband was hospitalized in Florida due to abdominal pain related to a 2018 knife attack.