Protestors storm and deface Oscar Niemeyer–designed buildings in Brazil’s capital during political riot

Déjà Vu

Protestors storm and deface Oscar Niemeyer–designed buildings in Brazil’s capital during political riot

National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil (Brastock/Shutterstock)

In a scene strikingly similar to the January 6 protests on the U.S. Capitol building two years ago, yesterday protestors in Brazil protesting the ousting of former President Jair Bolsonaro and demanding military intervention stormed the country’s government buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer.

Images of the event show thousands of protesters surrounding buildings in Praça dos Três Poderes (Three Powers Plaza) within Brasília, lining the wide avenues and circling the bowl-like structure atop Niemeyer’s National Congress of Brazil.

While inside the buildings, the protesters set fire to the lower house of Brazil’s Congress, entered presidential offices ransacking desks and government files, attempted to barricade themselves with office furniture, and smashed windows at the Supreme Court. The police used tear gas to fend off the attackers as they entered the buildings.

This morning it was reported that 1,200 were arrested for their participation. This follows a report late yesterday from the governor of the Federal District, Ibaneis Rocha, stating that 400 protesters had been detained. In a tweet he added that they “working to identify all the others who participated in these terrorist acts this afternoon.” Rocha has since been suspended from his position for 90 days, following an order from Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes.

Government leaders across the globe have spoke out condemning the insurrection, including Bolsonaro who tweeted in Portuguese: “Peaceful demonstrations, in the form of the law, are part of democracy. However, depredations and invasions of public buildings as occurred today, as well as those practiced by the left in 2013 and 2017, escape the rule.” At the end of last year, Bolsonaro traveled to Florida to avoid participation in Lula’s inauguration, where he remains.

Brazil’s current president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva echoed the former president’s sentiment, who, via Twitter, called the protestor’s “fascist, the most abominable thing in politics.” President Joe Biden also condemned the attacks and shared that Brazil’s democratic institutions have the United State’s full support.

The buildings that were the site of Sunday’s demonstration are the work of modernist Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and urban planner Lucio Costa. Among the buildings are the National Congress, the Palácio do Planalto (the official office of the President), and the Supreme Court. All the structures were completed in the 1950s and 1960s as part of a country-wide modernization project. The city of Brasília and these buildings are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

After Lula’s inauguration last week, he and his wife toured the Palácio da Alvorada, also designed by Niemeyer. Local news organization G1 Globo reported that the official presidential residence is in need of a significant renovation after Bolsonaro’s departure. Images show loose floorboards, broken windows, and missing artwork on the walls. The couple hopes to make repairs to the residence in the coming weeks to ready it for their use and public visitation.