A protester holds a placard during protest against his Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's government during a demonstration in Brasilia, Brazil Saturday. Photo by Joédson Alves/EPA-EFE
May 29 (UPI) -- Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Brazilian cities to demand President Jair Bolsonaro be impeached over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly half a million people in the country.
The demonstrations are estimated to be the largest anti-Bolsonaro actions since the first cases of the virus were reported in the country, The Guardian reported.
As of Saturday, the novel coronavirus has killed 461,057 Brazilians and sickened 16.5 million people in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracker, giving the country the second highest official death toll after the United States.
Many demonstrators in Rio carried homemade placards to commemorate loved ones they have lost to the virus.
Luiz Dantas, 18, who marched carrying a photo of his deceased 75-year-old grandfather, told The Guardian, "The culprit has a first and a second name," in reference to Bolsonaro's response to the virus.
A Brazilian Senate commission is investigating Bolsonaro's coronavirus policies, including allegations that his administration promoted unproven remedies, failed to secure vaccines and pressured local leaders who wanted to impose stricter health restrictions, Al Jazeera reported.
"Today is a decisive milestone in the battle to defeat Bolsonaro's genocidal administration," said Silvia de Mendonça, 55, a civil rights activist from Brazil's Unified Black Movement as she led protesters through Rio's city center.