The protests are fueled by concerns that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro may refuse to accept the election results.
Thousands of Brazilians flocked to a law school on Thursday to defend the country’s democratic institutions, an event that echoed a rally nearly 45 years ago when citizens gathered at the same site to protest a brutal military dictatorship.
In 1977, crowds entered the Law School of the University of São Paulo to hear the reading of “A Letter to the Brazilians,” a manifesto calling for the immediate return of the rule of law. On Thursday, they heard slogans defending democracy and the country’s electoral system, which has been repeatedly attacked by right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro before his re-election in October.
While the current manifestos do not specifically name Bolsonaro, they underscore the country’s widespread concern that the far-right leader could follow in the footsteps of former US President Donald Trump and attempt to cling to power, with election results not in his favor.
A manifesto read at Thursday’s event garnered more than 800,000 signatures and warned that Brazilian democracy was under threat.
“We are in danger of a coup, so civil society must stand up and fight against it to guarantee democracy,” Jose Carlos Dias, a former justice minister who read the 1977 letter and two documents Thursday, told The Associated Press. agency.
In São Paulo, drivers stuck in traffic on one of the law school’s main streets clapped and marching students chanted pro-democracy slogans. A large inflatable electronic voting machine near the building’s main entrance was emblazoned with the slogan “Respect the Vote”.
Bolsonaro’s commitment to democracy has been tested since taking office, largely because the former military captain has persistently glorified the country’s two-decade dictatorship that ended in 1985.
For more than a year, in actions lifted directly from Trump’s playbook, Bolsonaro has claimed that Brazil’s electronic voting machines are likely to be rigged, though, like Trump, he has never produced any evidence. Bolsonaro has consistently outperformed former president Luiz Inacio da Silva, known as Lula, in pre-election polls.
Bolsonaro began to express a desire for greater involvement of the armed forces in election supervision. Last week, army officials visited the election authority’s headquarters to inspect the source code of the voting machines. Bolsonaro has alleged that some of the authority’s top officials are working against him.
At the law school on Thursday, Carlos Silveira held up a sign that read: “The military does not count votes.”
“We’re here because doing nothing is dangerous,” said 43-year-old Silveira. “Bolsonaro has suggested a major anti-democratic act ahead of the election and the military appears to be on his side. We want to show them that we are the majority and that our bid for democracy will win.”
When Bolsonaro launched his campaign, he called on supporters to flood the streets for Independence Day celebrations on September 7. On that date last year, he announced to thousands of people who had gathered at his behest that only God could remove him from power.