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Supporters of Brazilian far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro who refuse to accept his electoral defeat have stormed the Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace in the capital, Brasilia.

Videos on social media showed Bolsonaro supporters smashing windows and furniture of the National Congress and Supreme Court buildings. They climbed onto the roof of the Congress building, where Brazil’s Senate and Chamber of Deputies conduct their legislative business, unfurling a banner that read “intervention” and an apparent appeal to Brazil’s military.

Images on TV channel Globo News also showed protesters roaming the presidential palace, many of them wearing green and yellow – the colours of the Brazilian flag, which have also come to symbolise the Bolsonaro government.

One social media video showed a crowd outside pulling a policeman from his horse and beating him to the ground

Security forces used tear gas in an effort to repel the demonstrators. Local media estimating about 3,000 people were involved in the incident.

Protesters, supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro, storm the National Congress building in Brasilia, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

The siege comes just a week after the inauguration of Bolsonaro’s leftist rival, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Responding to the siege, Lula declared a federal security intervention in Brasilia.

Lula called the rioters “fascists, fanatics” and said they would be punished “with the full force of law.” The federal intervention in Brasilia will last until January 31, he said in a speech. Lula was far from the capital, on an official trip to Sao Paulo state.

Bolsonaro supporters have been protesting against Lula’s election win since the October 30 vote, blocking roads, setting vehicles on fire and gathering outside military buildings, asking armed forces to intervene. Many believed election results were fraudulent or unreliable.

Reporting from Rio de Janeiro, Al Jazeera’s Monica Yanakiew said that some Bolsonaro supporters have been camped out in Brasilia since the election.

“People from this camp and from other parts marched toward the square in Brasilia, called the Three Powers square, because in this same square you have Congress, the presidential palace, and the Supreme Court and they’ve entered the three buildings,” she said.

Supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro rifle through papers on a desk after storming the Planalto Palace, the official workplace of the president, in Brasilia, Brazil [Eraldo Peres/The Associated Press]

“They went inside the Supreme Court, which they consider to be their main enemy, because they say that the Supreme Court is biased, and recognised an election that they say is stolen,” Yanakiew said, noting that the incident occurred after Lula’s January 1 inauguration, when authorities were less likely to expect such a siege.

However, she added the “big question” remained as to why demonstrators were so easily able to overrun security forces during the incident, which took place on a Sunday, when legislators, justices and other officials were not on the premises.

The storming recalled the January 6 invasion of the United States Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, who like Bolsonaro’s supporters, also claimed without evidence that the 2020 US presidential election was “stolen”.

A man waves Brazil's flag as supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrate against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, outside Brazil’s National Congress in Brasilia
A man waves Brazil’s flag as supporters of Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrate against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at Brazil’s National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil [Adriano Machado/Reuters]

Brazilian law professor Diego Amparo said that like Trump, Bolsonaro had for years fomented distrust in government institutions.

“It’s the kind of rhetoric that was seen not only in the election cycle, but throughout the whole presidency of Bolsonaro,” he told Al Jazeera. “So this moment is really the concrete symbol of several years of trying to discredit the political and judicial institutions in the country.”

He added that many local officials and members of the armed forces maintain ties with Bolsonaro, making it a “very complicated situation” for Lula and his government to navigate.

On Twitter, Brazil’s Justice Minister Flavio Dino said: “This absurd attempt to impose their will by force will not prevail.”

“The government of the Federal District has ensured there will be reinforcements. And the forces at our disposal are at work,” he said.

Video on social media showed security forces forming a barrier with their shields as they moved towards the buildings.

Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco said he was in permanent contact with Brasilia’s Governor Ibaneis Rocha, and that the entire police apparatus had been mobilised to control the situation.

Bolsonaro left Brazil at the end of the year and travelled to Florida, the US state where Trump now resides. There was no immediate comment from the former president.

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