A man clenched his fist as he clutched his upper body through the small window of a bus leaving Brazil’s federal police headquarters in Brasilia on Tuesday.
“Victory will be ours,” he shouted. “It’s our freedom!”
He is one of more than 1,500 supporters of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who were arrested after breaking into the National Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace last Sunday – some armed with knives, axes and even pomegranates – in scenes reminiscent of January. 6 Last year’s Capitol uprising in the United States.
Many are now being released by authorities after being processed by federal police and will not face charges.
“Our flag will never be red,” he chanted, referring to the Workers’ Party of leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Next to him, fellow Bolsonaro supporter Wagner Lopes Loureiro was equally spirited after spending two nights in prison. “Always! I will always keep fighting,” he said. “I can’t let this shame continue.”
In pictures: Bolsonaro supporters storm Brazil’s Congress
The couple, like many Bolsonaro supporters involved in Sunday’s assault on Brazil’s seat of government, refuse to acknowledge the results of Brazil’s national presidential vote last year, which saw Lula narrowly win one of the tightest competitions in decades.
Authorities have released many of the pro-Bolsonaro protesters arrested in connection with the riots and looting of government facilities in Brasilia.
Upon leaving, most deny any wrongdoing.
Among those still in custody, one protester told CNN she entered government buildings with the protesters who forced their way in, but also denied participating in any violence.
“At the moment (the police) continue to question people. Yesterday they did it with the older ones and those with health issues,” she said of the scene inside police headquarters.
“It’s chaos here because we don’t know anything, they can’t tell exactly if people are in jail, if they’re going to get out,” she said.
So many protesters have been arrested since Sunday that authorities have had to house them in a gymnasium at the headquarters. Many were allowed to keep their phones, with some sending photos and videos from the location.
The jailed protester told CNN she spent 50 days protesting outside the Brazilian army headquarters in Brasilia, hoping the military would intervene to nullify the election which she says was stolen from Bolsonaro.
The former president had fueled concerns about Brazil’s electoral system ahead of the election by criticizing the country’s electronic voting system and speculating it might be corrupt. He also refused to explicitly concede the vote. However, Brazil’s military found no signs of voter fraud in the election and Bolsonaro condemned Sunday’s riots.
“Our intention? Disagree with everything that was going on,” the protester said. “The ballot boxes, we keep asking for it, asking for help from the armed forces, to help the people. Because it was their coup.
For her, at the heart of the problem is Lula, a two-time former president who enjoyed great popularity in previous terms but later served time for corruption. Lula’s conviction was overturned on a jurisdictional technicality by a Brazilian judge in March 2021. The judge ordered Lula’s case to be retried in the proper jurisdiction, paving the way for his political rebound.
“I don’t accept Lula,” she said. “We didn’t agree with him being president and wanted to know how many people voted for the other side.”
She says she is not a terrorist, because she was unarmed. “I am not a terrorist. I have no weapons,” she said. “I couldn’t see who started it. It was quick.”
And she does not regret her role in one of the darkest days of Brazilian democracy.
” I do not regret it. I do not regret it. Because I was unarmed, I didn’t go there with a mask, I didn’t go there with goggles. I didn’t go there with a bomb. I was there democratically, for the future of my children, for something I believe in,” she said.
“We came to look for our future. Isn’t it democratic for us to do something for something?
But for most Brazilians — and even many who would have preferred Bolsonaro to remain president — Sunday’s riots were an affront to the very democracy she believes she stands for.