Hundreds of Thousands Flood Brazil’s Largest City to Protest Persecution of Ex-President Jair Bolsonaro

People are demonstrating in support of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in downto
Gustavo Basso/NurPhoto via Getty

Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians flocked to the streets of São Paulo on Sunday to peacefully express their support for former President Jair Bolsonaro in an ongoing investigation into a purported “coup” plot after his defeat in the 2022 presidential election.

The massive Sunday rally saw São Paulo’s roughly 1.7-mile-long Paulista Avenue full of Bolsonaro sympathizers, who predominantly wore the Brazilian flag’s green and yellow colors and the Brazil national soccer team jersey. While the Public Security Department estimated 750,000 people attended the rally, the Center of Operations of the San Paulo State Military Police said 1.8 million showed up. Bolsonaro, prior to the event, had described it as “a peaceful demonstration in defense of the democratic rule of law.” 

The former Brazilian president was accompanied by his wife, former First Lady Michelle Bolsonaro, and allies such as the governor of São Paulo Tarcísio de Freitas.

Bolsonaro, who was banned last year from running for public office until 2030, is at the center of an ongoing investigation known as Operação Tempus Veritatis (“Operation Time of Truth”). The investigation claims that Bolsonaro and some of his closest allies were allegedly preparing a “coup” and planned to call for new elections after he was narrowly defeated by radical leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the 2022 presidential election. 

Bolsonaro had his passport seized as part of the investigation and is effectively banned from leaving Brazil.

The investigation is being led by Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) Minister and “anti-fake news crusader” Alexandre de Moraes, who claims that he was on the list of officials the “coup” conspirators were planning to arrest. De Moraes has opened several investigations into Bolsonaro and ordered police raids on not just Bolsonaro’s home, but on the homes of Bolsonaro’s sons and some of his closest allies. The STF minister was also on the front lines of a widespread censorship initiative against Bolsonaro’s 2022 presidential campaign that favored President Lula’s campaign by silencing reporting on his various criminal convictions.

During his roughly 20-minute speech to the crowds, Bolsonaro made calls for peace and said that he would defend himself against “all of the accusations” against him, including the purported plot conspiracy.

Without directly mentioning de Moraes, the Brazilian Federal Police, nor any government authorities during his speech, Bolsonaro lamented what he called “abuses by some” and claimed to be a victim of persecution, citing the events that occurred in 2018 when he was stabbed during a campaign rally.

“I’ve been beaten up since before the 2018 elections, I spent four years persecuted and this persecution increased when I left the presidency,” Bolsonaro said. 

“‘Bolsonaro wanted to carry out a coup.’ That’s what I’ve been hearing since I took office in 2019, and some of the press echoed it,” he continued. “A coup is a tank in the street – none of this has been done. I’d have a lot to say, there are people who know what I’d say, but what I’m looking for is pacification, to erase the past. Thank you very much, people of Brazil.”

As part of his calls for peace, Bolsonaro also made calls for amnesty for those imprisoned over their participation in the January 8, 2023, riots. On that day, thousands of pro-Bolsonaro Brazilians stormed the premises of Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), and the Planalto presidential palace. Although the protesters caused significant damage to the facilities, furniture, and priceless historical artifacts housed therein, no deaths were reported during the riots.

“On the part of the Brazilian Parliament, an amnesty for those poor people who are imprisoned in Brasilia. We no longer want their children to be orphans of living parents,” Bolsonaro urged. “Reconciliation. In the past, we have given amnesty to those who have committed barbarities in Brazil. Now we are asking all 513 deputies and 81 senators for an amnesty bill so that justice can be done in Brazil.”

Bolsonaro, as well as many of the rally’s participants, waved Israeli flags during Sunday’s rally to peacefully express their solidarity with Israel following President Lula’s recent barrage of antisemitic comments over Israel’s ongoing self-defense operations against the terrorist organization Hamas.

Over the course of February, Lula repeatedly condemned Israel’s actions against Hamas, comparing them to those of Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler during the Holocaust. Lula’s comments elicited outraged condemnation from the Israeli government, which declared Lula persona non grata, banning him from visiting Israel.


Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira has said that Lula will not apologize for his antisemitic remarks and Lula has continued to accuse Israel of committing a “genocide” in Gaza.

Bolsonaro concluded his speech by rallying his sympathizers to participate in the upcoming October 2024 municipal elections, asking the rally’s participants to “make sure [they] vote, especially for councillors.”

The former Brazilian president also criticized the removal of “opponents” from electoral events. “We can’t agree to a power removing anyone from the political stage, we can’t think about elections by removing opponents.”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


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