PANAMA CITY, JULY 1 -- Antigovernment protesters returned to the streets of the capital today to call for the ouster of Panama's military chief and de facto ruler, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega.
The anti-Noriega protests, involving mostly student demonstrators, were the first since the government imposed a nationwide state of emergency June 11 to quell violent riots. Emergency rule, which suspended key constitutional guarantees, was lifted Tuesday.
About 3,000 university and high school students attempted to march peacefully on the presidential palace, guarded by troops in full combat gear, on the downtown waterfront.
The slogan-chanting demonstrators fled in panic about seven blocks from the palace when a small group of men in civilian clothes fired at them with handguns and tear-gas grenades, witnesses said.
One hour later, about 500 rock-throwing students attacked the headquarters of the Democratic Revolutionary Party on Central Avenue, the city's principal thoroughfare and commercial district. Shopkeepers in the area slammed down their metal gates almost immediately as students hurled rocks and other debris. The party is a leading member of Panama's military-backed coalition government.
A plainclothesman who identified himself as a member of the DENI special police attempted to take a camera from a Reuter photographer after she took a picture of another plainclothesman opening fire on the demonstrators.