RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – “No amnesty! No amnesty! No amnesty!”
The chants echoed off the walls of the crowded hall of the University of Sao Paulo Law School on Monday afternoon. Hours later it was time Battle cry for thousands of Brazilians that spilled onto the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, hung on protest posters and banners.
The words are a call for retaliation against supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro who stormed the Brazilian capital on Sundayand those who made the killing spree possible.
“These people need to be punished, the people who ordered it need to be punished, those who gave money for it need to be punished,” said Bety Amin, a 61-year-old therapist, on Sao Paulo’s main boulevard. The word “DEMOCRACY” stretched across the back of her shirt. “They do not represent Brazil. We represent Brazil.”
The protesters’ quest for accountability brings back memories amnesty law which has for decades protected military personnel accused of abuse and murder during the country’s 1964-1985 dictatorship. A 2014 report by the Truth Commission sparked debate about how Brazil has dealt with the legacy of the regime.
Refusing punishment “can avoid tension at the moment but perpetuate instability,” wrote Luis Felipe Miguel, a professor of political science at the University of Brasilia, in a column titled “No Amnesty” published Monday night. “This is the lesson we should have learned from the end of the military dictatorship, when Brazil chose not to punish the regime’s murderers and torturers.”
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Brazilian police had already rounded up around 1,500 rioters on Monday, some of whom were caught vandalizing Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court and Presidential Palace, while the majority were arrested at a camp in Brasilia the next morning. Many were held in a gym all day and videos shared on pro-Bolsonaro social media channels showed some complaining about the mistreatment in the crowded room.
The federal police press office told The Associated Press the force planned to indict at least 1,000 people and had begun transferring them to nearby Papuda prison.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government says it’s just the beginning.
Justice Minister Flávio Dino pledged to prosecute those who acted behind the scenes to rally supporters on social media and fund their transportation for crimes such as organized crime, staging a coup d’état and violently overthrowing the democratic rule of law. He also said authorities are investigating allegations that local security personnel continued the demolition unhindered.
“We cannot and will not compromise when fulfilling our legal obligations,” said Dino. “This fulfillment is essential so that such events do not repeat themselves.”
Lula signed a decree on Sunday ordering the federal government to take control of security in the capital. It was approved by the lower house of Congress on Monday night and will now go to the Senate.
The Brasilia uprising was a reminder of the threat to democracy posed by far-right elements who refuse to accept Bolsonaro’s electoral defeat. Since his October 30 loss, they have camped outside military barracks, pleading for intervention so Bolsonaro can remain in power and oust Lula. When no coup came about, they rose up themselves.
Decked out in the green and yellow of the national flag, they smashed windows, toppled furniture and threw computers and printers onto the ground. They punched holes in a huge painting by Emiliano Di Cavalcanti in the presidential palace and destroyed other works of art. They toppled the U-shaped table where Supreme Court justices meet, ripped out a door from a judge’s office and destroyed a statue in front of the court. Hours passed before the police drove the mob away.
“It is unacceptable what happened yesterday. It’s terrorism,” said Marcelo Menezes, a 59-year-old police officer from the northeastern state of Pernambuco, at a demonstration in Sao Paulo. “I’m here to defend democracy, I’m here to defend the people.”
Cries of “No amnesty!” were also heard during Lula’s January 1 inaugural address in response to the president Detailing the neglect the outgoing Bolsonaro government.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has grown nostalgic for the dictatorship era, has hailed a notorious torturer as a hero and said the regime should have gone further in executing communists. Also his government celebrated the anniversary of the Brazilian coup of 1964.
Political analysts had repeatedly warned that Bolsonaro was laying the groundwork for an uprising in the form of what unfolded in the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. For months, he fomented belief among die-hard supporters that the nation’s electronic voting system was vulnerable to fraud — though he never presented any evidence and independent experts disagreed.
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The results of the election, the closest since Brazil’s return to democracy, were quickly recognized by politicians across the spectrum, including some Bolsonaro allies, as well as dozens of other governments. The outgoing President surprised almost everyone by immediately disappearing from view, neither conceding defeat nor emphatically bemoaning cheating. He and his party submitted an application Cancel millions of voteswhat was dismissed quickly by the electoral authority.
None of this dissuaded his die-hard supporters from their belief that Bolsonaro belongs in power.
Immediately after the uprising, Lula said that the so-called “fascist fanatics” and their financiers must be held accountable. He also accused Bolsonaro of promoting the uprising.
Bolsonaro denied the president’s accusation on Sunday. He wrote on Twitter that peaceful protest is part of democracy, but vandalism and invasion of public buildings are borderline.
Authorities are also investigating the role of federal district police in either failing to stop the march of protesters or standing aside to let them run amok. Prosecutors in the capital said local security forces at least acted carelessly. A Supreme Court judge temporarily suspended the regional governor, who oversees the force, for what he called “willful omission”. Another judge accused authorities across Brazil of not acting quickly against “native neo-fascism.”
The unrest eventually prompted local and state governments to disband the pro-Bolsonaro camps outside military barracks that had existed since the election. Their tents and tarps were taken down and the residents were sent home.
But pro-democracy protesters tried on Monday to ensure their message – “No amnesty!” – was heard by investigating and prosecuting authorities, as well as far-right elements who might dare to defy democracy again.
“After what happened yesterday, we have to take to the streets,” said Marcos Gama, a pensioner who protested in Sao Paulo on Monday night. “We must react”
AP video journalist Mello reported from Sao Paulo.
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