Video Shows Brazil Rioters Breaching Inadequate Security

It was an unfair fight in front of the Brazilian Congress. On one side of the metal fence were several dozen policemen, some armed with pepper spray, others wielding batons. On the other was a rapidly growing crowd of more than 1,000 angry protesters, falsely believed that the presidential election was stolen and determined to do something about it.

At 2:42 p.m. Sunday, almost in unison, protesters at one end of the street easily pulled down a metal fence, while at the other end, protesters pushed right through a plastic barrier, according to a video obtained by The New York Times. A few police officers sprayed chemicals, but within seconds the crowd was over.

moment is the beginning of a riot causing the Brazilian Congress, Supreme Court and presidential offices to be ransacked and the nation’s democracy under its worst threat in decades. And the previously unpublished video of the moment also revealed inadequate security at some of the nation’s most important institutions, which are now at the center of a broader investigation into what caused the mayhem, despite numerous warning signs.

Federal authorities have blamed a handful of people who run the federal district including the Brazilian capital Brasília. They accused the governor and county security chief of being negligent or worse, complicit and they took action against them.

Within hours of the riots, Alexandre de Moraes, a judge of the Supreme Court, suspended Ibaneis Rocha, the governor of the county, from his post for at least 90 days. Mr. Moraes then approved the federal police’s arrest warrant for the county’s chief of security, Anderson Torres, as well as the county’s sheriff, Fabio Augusto Vieira. In Wednesday’s votes, the Supreme Court confirmed both orders.

Mr Moraes, a controversial figure who has been criticized for exceeding his authority, said evidence showed the men knew the protesters were planning violence, but did a great deal. little to prevent that.

Neither he nor other federal agencies have disclosed that specific evidence. Instead, he cited the insufficient number of security forces and the fact that about 100 buses carrying protesters were allowed to enter Brasília without close supervision.

What is clear is that the federal government largely cedes responsibility to the county to protect the capital against the protests that, according to a series of social media posts in earlier days, seemed likely to turn violent. The federal government pays the county about $2 billion a year to provide security, and the county has successfully defended the capital during a number of major, tense political events in recent months.

A four-page security plan obtained by The Times shows that, during the protests planned for Sunday, much of the responsibility for protecting federal government buildings rests with the county police.

The document, signed Friday afternoon and sent to more than a dozen top security officials in Brasília, tasked the district police with keeping protesters out of the Three Powers Plaza, including the National Assembly, the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court. and presidential offices, and to “maintain personnel reinforcement” during the protests.

But that plan did not please Flávio Dino, Brazil’s justice minister, when he heard about it Saturday morning in a phone call with Rocha, the county governor, according to an unnamed official in his office. Dino. because officials have yet to agree to disclose the details of the call.

Mr. Dino did not want protesters on the national promenade, the Brazilian version of the National Mall in Washington, a long stretch of grass that leads directly to Brazil’s most important government buildings. In response, Mr. Rocha agreed to change the plan accordingly and limit the escape, according to an official in Mr. Dino’s office.

That evening, according to the official, Mr. Dino was surprised to see an article that said Mr Rocha would let the protest take place on the promenade with “quietness and security.”

Protests continue, but there is a lack of tranquility and security.

On Sunday, thousands of supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, the ousted far-right president, marched on the promenade, dressed in the yellow and green colors of the Brazilian flag and carrying banners demanding a rally. military coup and what it alludes to Bolsonaro’s voter fraud conspiracy theories have long been sold.

The district police were there, but not in full force. Authorities did not provide the exact number of police officers present on Sunday, but according to videos and eyewitness accounts, there were far fewer officers than at other recent protests in capital.

What we consider before using anonymous sources. Do the sources know the information? What is their motivation to tell us? Have they proven reliable in the past? Can we verify the information? Even after satisfying these questions, The Times still uses anonymous sources as a last resort. Reporters and at least one editor know the identity of the source.

In contrast, there were several hundred thousand people in the same place a week earlier for the inauguration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. While those crowds were there to celebrate, rather than wreak havoc, the district deployed all of its more than 10,000 police officers, far more than were present on Sunday.

Why there are so few police officers is now a central question for investigators. The security plan did not list a number of officers, but instead only suggested that police should have enough personnel to handle the protests.

Federal authorities pointed the finger at Mr. Torres and Mr. Vieira, the county’s chief of security and police chief, who have been ordered to arrest.

Mr. Torres, in particular, has come under scrutiny. He is Bolsonaro’s former attorney general and began his new position in the county on January 2. He quickly replaced most of the county’s security staff, despite their recent successful track record. during the election, and then left for a vacation in Florida, where Mr. Bolsonaro has also been in recent weeks.

On the day of the protests, Mr. Torres, ostensibly responsible for the security of the capital, was thousands of miles away.

Mr. Torres said on Tuesday that he would return to Brazil to defend himself. “I always guide my actions based on ethics and legitimacy. I believe in the Brazilian justice system and the strength of institutions. I am sure that the truth will prevail.” he said on Twitter.

Mr. Rocha, the county governor, has also now begun to point the finger at his deputies for security flaws.

Alberto Toron, Mr. Rocha’s lawyer, said in an interview on Wednesday that the security plans were adequate, but the security forces did not implement them, even claiming that they did so intentionally. so.

“For example, we have seen videos of police being friendly to protesters,” he said. “There’s a hidden hand here, not only causing the police to discharge and the Army to inaction, but there seems to be an arrangement for something broader to happen.”

“The governor has been cheated,” he added. “He went through a destructive process.”

Several videos emerged showing police indifference to the protests. In one scene, a man asks a chatty group of policemen if he can walk to the end of the promenade and bathe in the reflecting pool in front of Parliament. “Is everything open today?” he asks. The police seemed to respond affirmatively and waved him in the direction of Parliament.

Another video shows how after protesters climbed onto the roof of Parliament and broke into the building, about 10 policemen comfortably watched the scene, chatting with protesters, texting and filming themselves. .

It wasn’t until protesters stormed inside government buildings that the military and federal law enforcement arrived to regain control.

Federal security officials responsible for protecting the presidential offices failed to anticipate the violence during the protests and only asked for military reinforcements after rioters broke into the building’s interior. , according to an unnamed army general to discuss a closed investigation.

Federal police said late Wednesday that they had arrested 1,159 people, nearly all of them suspected of participating in the riots. Authorities have said in recent days that they are now turning their attention to political and business elites who have helped organize, finance and support the riots.

The actions of security and police officials are expected to remain the focus of investigators in the coming months. Brazil’s Senate plans to start a congressional investigation next month. On Wednesday, 60 members of the U.S. and Brazilian Congress issued a joint statement condemning extremism in both countries that led to attacks on their capitals.

Lis Moriconi and Leonardo Coelho contribution report.


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