Brazil riots: Far-right online groups calling for civil disobedience following Congress attack | World News

Extremists on Brazil’s far-right are calling for more acts of civil disobedience following the storming of the country’s democratic institutions on Sunday.

Messages promoting a “silent revolution” through refusing to pay tax are among those being disseminated in Telegram channels associated with Sunday’s riots.

It follows mounting evidence that plans for the violent uprising were openly co-ordinated on public channels, using thinly-veiled metaphors describing plans for a “party” inside Brazil’s Congress on 8 January.

Sky News has analysed some of these channels to reveal how the groups are responding to the aftermath of Brazil’s ‘6 January’ moment.

An income tax boycott is one of the disruptive tactics being promoted by hardline supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro on Telegram in the wake of Sunday’s attacks in Brasilia.

The leaflets call upon “patriots” to take part in a national campaign to “starve” what they call the “illegitimate state”

Many of those associated with Sunday’s riot believe the baseless suggestion that October’s election, which saw left-wing leader Lula da Silva achieve a narrow victory, was a fraud won through an unreliable electronic voting system. They therefore claim his government to be illegitimate.

These are allegations that have been promoted by Mr Bolsonaro himself, even after the insurrection. As recently as Wednesday, the former president shared a video echoing voter fraud conspiracies on Facebook. The clip has since been deleted from his page.

This flyer advertising a “National Shutdown” next week has been shared in some of Brazil’s biggest far-right channels. In it, truck drivers responsible for transporting goods and those working in the agricultural industry are urged to strike.


“Everyone at home.”

“Empty streets. No violence.” it reads.

Michele Prado, an independent analyst who studies Brazil’s far-right, says: “The objective is to produce chaos, general shortages, hit infrastructure targets to provoke a civil war and rupture the democratic order.”

Other messages seen by Sky News urge people to take part in a nationwide strike, in what they call a “silent protest.”

One called upon people to withdraw all their money from Brazilian banks, avoid holidays inside Brazil and boycott the famous Carnival in February.

“Only if the country is in complete chaos will the military intervene!” it says.

This comment captures one of this extremists’ key objectives.

Since the election result was announced at the end of October, they have loudly called for a military coup to unseat Lula. Those on Brazil’s far-right see this as the only way to secure the country’s future, and had established a large protest camp outside the military’s headquarters until police dismantled it following the riots.

They hope that through causing maximum disruption in Brazil, the military will have no choice but to intervene.

“On 8 January, they expected the armed forces to side with them and promote a military intervention that would bring Bolsonaro back to power, annul the elections, arrest President Lula and close the Supreme Court,” said Ms Prado.

But it’s clear that not everyone in these groups has continued faith in the military following Sunday’s incident.

One widely-shared video weaves together footage of the military arresting Sunday’s rioters with clips of the conditions inside the gymnasium where detainees are being held.


It’s accompanied by an audio track in which a tearful man shouts: “Army help us! You have betrayed the motherland!”

“I warned everyone that if God wasn’t at the centre of the [military], this would happen,” the accompanying message reads.

Others have encouraged people to abandon the idea of a military coup altogether, and instead trust that God will step in to stop Lula.


“There were 70 days asking for military intervention: it didn’t work. Now spend the same amount asking for divine intervention – it will work!” one leaflet reads.

“Christian nationalism is very present within Brazil’s far-right,” said Ms Prado.

“We’ve also seen the spread of QAnon narratives, leading them to believe that they are in a spiritual battle against a satanic plot and that God will step in and save them,” she told Sky News.

As this radical coalition scrambles to organise its next move, experts have highlighted how these public online channels were used to organise Sunday’s violent uprising in plain sight.

Some extremists used codewords like “Festa de Selma” meaning “Selma’s party” to describe their plan for a violent uprising at the country’s Palace of the Three Powers.

Selma is another codeword for “Selva” which means “jungle” in Portuguese, but is used as a rallying cry by the far-right.

One image posted to Telegram shared a satellite image of the Esplanada dos Ministérios in Brasilia with the caption “Location of Selma’s party”.

In it, the Congressional building is circled, with the added caption “Cake cut here!”


Analysis from Arcelino Neto of Sao Paulo University found that, on Twitter, the phrase “Festa da Selma” first appeared three days before Sunday’s attack. By 10 January, it had been shared by more than 10,000 accounts.

Other messages, however, made little attempt to conceal the intention behind the 8 January demonstration.


“Attention. This is not a party, this is a war. Dress appropriately,” says one flyer.

Another, which was disseminated just hours before the siege began, used an image of a previous gathering at the country’s Congress building to demonstrate what was planned.


“This is our last last chance! [The army] is on standby awaiting our action! Patriots, it has to be today!” it reads.

Experts are closely monitoring how this movement evolves following the incident on 8 January.

“Most will continue to hold on to the ‘prophecy’ of military intervention,” says Professor Leticia Cesarino, professor of anthropology at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina and an expert on digital populism in Brazil.

“They will continue to advocate for removing Lula, including by violence if needed. But I would guess they’ll continue to do it in this indirect manner, such as disrupting infrastructure,” she told Sky News.

“I would wait and see however if there will be reflux before they begin escalating again, or whether they’ll keep the momentum.”

The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

Why data journalism matters to Sky News

Leave a Reply



Sign up to stay informed to breaking news