An estimated total of 3.6 million people took to the streets of Brazil Sunday to demand President Dilma Rousseff resign or face impeachment in what is being called the largest peaceful protest in the nation’s history.
Brazilians marched in the streets of an estimated 400 cities nationwide, with the largest congregations in the capital Brasilia, Sao Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. O Globo estimates that Sao Paulo boasted the largest crowds, with 1.4 million protesting. One million are estimated to have attended the anti-Rousseff rally in Rio de Janeiro. In the capital, an estimated 100,000 people congregated in front of Congress to demand legislators impeach Rousseff.
In addition to cities in Brazil, Brazilian nationals protested Rousseff in Washington D.C., New York, and Lisbon.
“We are in the streets because we cannot stand this government any longer,” protester Rodrigo Chequer, one of the organizers of the events, said. “We demand Dilma be impeached.” Protesters issued numerous statements explaining why they participated in the rally, with all citing corruption as a major factor in their demand for Rousseff to resign. “I voted for the Workers’ Party, but never again,” one woman told reporters. “I’m tired of all this corruption and the disorder the country has become.”
One of the most celebrated figures by protesters because of his role in the operation Wash Jet is the judge Sergio Moro, who said he was “touched” after being figured with masks in various cities, including Curitiba, where he commanded operation Wash Jet.
In Rio, protesters rejected the participation of politicians. The crowd responded with cries of “No Party!” and boos when parliamentarians urged organizers to be present and speak.
Using the hashtag #VemPaRuaBrasil (“Come to the Streets, Brazil”), protesters posted dramatic photos of large crowds on Twitter. Many carried figurines, depicting Rousseff and former socialist president Ignacio Lula da Silva in a traditional striped jailhouse uniform. Some protests featured parade-float versions of major government figures. Many wore Brazil soccer uniforms to display the national colors.
— Josuel de Castro (@josuel_castro) March 13, 2016
— Gustavo Rosa (@gcamposrosa) March 13, 2016
— Claudia Porto (@claudiaporto) March 13, 2016
— Team Eu (@dianeborges_) March 13, 2016
— Blog do Celino Neto (@Blog_CelinoNeto) March 13, 2016
— Wudson Paschoalino (@Wudson_) March 13, 2016
— Rodrigo Möller (@MollerSandayo) March 13, 2016
— Glauco Callia (@glauco_callia) December 13, 2015
— Vado #Atitude (@vadomec) December 13, 2015
— 13/03 vem ai!!! (@OslecMac74) December 13, 2015
Rousseff has responded by issuing a statement praising the protesters for staging peaceful events. “Freedom of expression is characteristic of democracies and all must be respected,” the statement reads, adding, “The peaceful nature of the demonstrations that took place on Sunday demonstrates the maturity of a country that knows how to live with divergent opinions and ensures respect for its laws and institutions.”
Protesters are responding to more than a year of news reports and police investigations into how government administrators have managed the revenue of Petrobras, the state oil company, in the past decade. Years of police investigation revealed that top executives at Petrobras had established an elaborate kickback scheme amounting to more than $3 billion in stolen public funds. Implicated in the scheme is the nation’s president at the time, Lula da Silva, and then-Secretary of Energy Dilma Rousseff. While police have not found evidence of Rousseff’s involvement, da Silva has been brought in for questioning several times in the past month and is facing charges of money laundering.
There is evidence that some of the stolen funds were not only pocketed for private use, but used for funding political campaigns.
Da Silva has dismissed his detention for questioning as a “media show” and denies involvement with the corruption scheme. On Monday, da Silva denied involvement by asserting that he is “an old man trying to rest” and is being forced into multiple hours of questioning in the hopes of slipping and saying something that may be used against him in court.