CARACAS, Venezuela — A throng of protesters made a run for the Venezuelan presidential palace on Thursday in a rare outburst of anger at the socialist administration in downtown Caracas.
More than 100 people charged down the main thoroughfare in central Caracas Thursday chanting slogans critical of the ruling socialist party. Police in riot gear ran toward them and fired tear gas, then pushed the protesters back away from the palace.
Onlookers leaned out of windows banging pots and yelling insults at the officers.
The economically struggling county has near-daily spontaneous protests in recent weeks over shortage of food and other goods.
The organized opposition has staged several large rallies against the administration of President Nicolás Maduro. But most appear to involve middle class opponents of the government rather than the sort of working class people who appear to have made up Thursday’s protest.
Protesters said the incident started when a group of armed government supporters tried to cut into a long food line.
“We have needs too. We all need to eat” said José López, who joined dozens of others in chasing the would-be intruders away, and then continued toward the presidential palace.
López and other protesters said they were not members of the opposition or supporters of the government, just people trying to feed themselves.
Venezuela saw a wave of bloody anti-government protests in 2014, but most were in middle class areas. The government has long counted on the poor people who live downtown and the slums above the city to support the administration, or at least stay away from opposition marches.
Shops closed their doors Thursday as government supporters arrived on motorcycles and began to fight with the protesters. Both groups eventually moved off the main street, leaving the usually chaotic streets empty in the early afternoon.