RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – No amnesty! No amnesty! No amnesty!”
The chant echoed off the walls of the crowded auditorium at the University of Sao Paulo College of Law on Monday afternoon. Hours later, it became the slogan of the thousands of Brazilians who took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, written on protest posters and banners.
The words are a demand for retribution against supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro who stormed the Brazilian capital on Sunday and those who contributed to the unrest.
“These people should be punished, the people who ordered this should be punished, those who gave money for this should be punished,” said Beti Amin, 61, a therapist, on Sao Paulo’s main boulevard. The word DEMOCRACY was stretched across the back of her shirt. “They do not represent Brazil. We represent Brazil.”
The protesters’ desire for accountability is reminiscent of the amnesty law that for decades protected military personnel accused of abuse and murder during the country’s 1964-85 dictatorship. A 2014 truth commission report sparked controversy about how Brazil is dealing with the legacy of the regime.
The non-punishment “might avoid tensions for the moment, but perpetuates instability,” Luis Felipe Miguel, a professor of political science at the University of Brasilia, wrote in a column titled “No Amnesty” published Monday evening. “This is the lesson we should have learned from the end of the military dictatorship, when Brazil decided not to punish the regime’s killers and torturers.”
Brazilian police on Monday have already detained about 1,500 rioters. Some have been caught vandalizing the Brazilian Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace. Most of them were detained the next morning in a camp in Brasilia. Many of them were at the gym during the day, and a video posted on pro-Bolsonaro social media showed some complaining about being mistreated in a crowded place.
Federal police said in a statement that nearly 600 elderly, sick, homeless or mothers with children were released on Tuesday after being questioned and their phones checked. His press office previously told The Associated Press that the force plans to indict at least 1,000 people. As of Tuesday afternoon, 527 people have been transferred to either detention facilities or prison.
The administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva says the jailing of the rioters is only the beginning.
Justice Minister Flavio Dino vowed to bring to justice those who acted behind the scenes, summoning supporters on social media and funding their transportation on charges of organized crime, staging a coup d’état and forcibly lifting the democratic rule of law. Authorities are also investigating allegations that local security officials allowed the ongoing destruction.
“We cannot and will not compromise on our legal obligations,” Dino said. “This execution is necessary so that such events do not recur.”
Lula signed an executive order, approved by both houses of Congress, directing the federal government to assume control of security in the capital.
Far-right elements refused to accept Bolsonaro’s defeat in the elections. After his defeat on October 30, they camped outside the military barracks in Brasília, pleading for an intervention to allow Bolsonaro to remain in power and overthrow Lula. When the coup failed, they revolted themselves.
Dressed in the green and yellow colors of the national flag, they smashed windows, toppled furniture and threw computers and printers to the ground. They punched holes in a huge painting by Emiliano Di Cavalcanti in the presidential palace and destroyed other works of art. They knocked over a U-shaped table where the judges of the Supreme Court gather, ripped out the door from the office of one of the judges and desecrated a statue near the court. Several hours passed before the police dispersed the crowd.
“What happened yesterday is unacceptable. This is terrorism,” Marcelo Menezes, a 59-year-old police officer from the northeastern state of Pernambuco, told a protest in Sao Paulo. “I’m here for democracy, I’m here for the people.”
Cries of “No amnesty!” were also heard during Lula’s January 1 inaugural address in response to the president’s detailed description of the outgoing Bolsonaro administration’s neglect.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, felt nostalgia for the era of the dictatorship, hailed the infamous executioner as a hero and said the regime should have gone further in executing communists. His government also marked the anniversary of the 1964 coup in Brazil.
Political analysts have repeatedly warned that Bolsonaro is laying the groundwork for an uprising modeled on the one that unfolded at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. fraud – although he never presented any evidence, and independent experts disagreed.
The results of the election, the closest since Brazil’s return to democracy, were quickly recognized by politicians across the spectrum, including some of Bolsonaro’s allies, as well as dozens of other governments. The outgoing president surprised almost everyone by quickly disappearing from view without admitting defeat or shouting fraud. He and his party petitioned for the annulment of millions of votes, which was quickly denied by the electoral body.
None of this convinced his staunch supporters that Bolsonaro should still be in power.
In the immediate aftermath of the riots, Lula declared that the so-called “fascist fanatics” and their financial backers should be held accountable. He also accused Bolsonaro of encouraging the rebellion.
On Sunday, Bolsonaro denied the president’s allegations. Tweeting, he said peaceful protest is part of democracy, but vandalism and trespassing on public buildings are crossing the line.
Authorities are also investigating the role of the federal district police in either failing to stop protesters from advancing or leaving them on the sidelines to allow them to spiral out of control. Prosecutors in the capital said local security forces were at the very least negligent. A Supreme Court judge temporarily suspended the regional police governor for what he called “deliberate inaction.” Another judge accused the Brazilian authorities of not taking quick action against “home-grown neo-fascism”.
The coup finally prompted municipal and state governments to break up Bolsonaro’s camps outside the military barracks. Their tents and tarpaulin were removed, and the residents were sent to pack their things.
Meanwhile, pro-democracy protesters want to reaffirm their message – “No amnesty!” — both law enforcement agencies and any far-right elements that dare to challenge democracy again will listen.
“After what happened yesterday, we need to go outside,” said Marcos Gama, a retired protester Monday night in Sao Paulo. “We have to respond.”
This was reported by video journalist AP Mello from São Paulo. AP author Carla Bridie donated from El Salvador.