Peruvians pour into Lima, many from remote Andean regions, to protest against President Dina Boluarte and in support of her predecessor, whose ouster last month sparked deadly unrest and political chaos.
Thousands of Peruvians, many from the country's southern mining regions, have descended on the capital Lima to protest against the government and Congress, fired up by over 50 deaths linked to protests since last month.
Thursday's "Take over Lima" protest was punctuated by clashes with police, while the death toll from over a month of violent protests climbed in the country's southern regions.
Some of the Lima protesters, who are demanding the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and fresh elections, threw stones and bottles at officers in the city center, the AFP news agency reported.
The police were forced to temporarily retreat before they dug in behind riot shields and began deploying tear gas. At least two people were injured.
One building near the central Plaza San Martin caught fire, though it was not immediately clear how.
In the southern city of Arequipa, some 1,000 protesters tried early Thursday to storm the airport, but were also repelled by police firing tear gas, local television showed.
"We want Dina Boluarte to resign," said Julio Saldivar, a protester from Ayacucho, where a dozen peopled died in December.
Police said they deployed 11,800 officers in Lima ahead of expected trouble.
The clashes mark the worst violence Peru has seen in over 20 years as many people in poorer rural regions vent anger at the Lima political elite over inequality and rising prices, testing the copper-rich Andean nation's democratic institutions.
Besides Boluarte's resignation, protesters are seeking a new Constitution to replace a market-friendly one dating back to strongman leader Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s.
In buses and on foot, thousands have journeyed to the capital, carrying flags and banners criticising the government and police for deadly clashes in the southern cities of Ayacucho and Juliaca, many demanding Boluarte step down.
"We want to centralise our movement here in Lima, which is the heart of Peru, to see if they are moved," said Domingo Cueva, a protester at the state University of San Marcos.
READ MORE: Peru protesters vow to 'paralyse' Lima as anti-Boluarte march looms
🇵🇪 Imágenes del Centro de Lima #Perú en repuesta a movilizaciones masivas de un pueblo violentado por su estado.— Erika Guevara Rosas (@ErikaGuevaraR) January 19, 2023
Exigimos al gobierno de @DinaErcilia cesar la represión y el uso de la fuerza. El pueblo peruano exige diálogo y soluciones a sus demandas
'We won't forget the pain'
The protests, sparked by the dramatic December 7 ouster of leftist former president Pedro Castillo after he tried to illegally shutter Congress and consolidate power, have seen 43 people killed in clashes, including one police officer.
Nine more have died in related accidents.
The protest deaths have been the lightning rod for much of the anger, with banners calling Boluarte a "murderer" and calling the killings by police and military "massacres".
"We won't forget the pain the police have caused in the town of Juliaca. We women, men, children have to fight," said one protester travelling to Lima who didn't give her name.
Protester Cueva, who had come from Cusco, said many had tried to come to Lima for the Thursday protest and strike, though not all had made it.
"We have observed an increase in repressions everywhere. Some leaders have been stopped on the way, they were not allowed to pass," he said.
Police have increased surveillance of roads entering Lima and political leaders have called for calm.
The government last week extended a state of emergency in Lima and the southern regions of Puno and Cusco, curtailing some civil rights.
"We do not want more deaths, we do not want more injuries, enough blood, enough mourning for the families of Peru," Interior Minister Vicente Romero told reporters.
Boluarte has asked for "forgiveness" for the protest deaths but remained firm that she is not going to resign.
Human rights groups have accused the police and army of using deadly firearms in the protests.
Boluarte, who was Castillo's vice president, succeeded him.
But despite Boluarte belonging to the same left-wing party, Castillo supporters have rejected her, even accusing her of being a "traitor."
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