Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets in Caracas on Wednesday, protesting President Nicolás Maduro. His opponents billed their march as “the mother of all protests.”

What resulted was a crackdown on the demonstrators, who fled clouds of tear gas. At least two people were shot dead by unidentified attackers. At least six Venezuelans have already died this month in what have been the biggest anti-government protests since 2014.

Wednesday was an important test for the opposition and whether it could persuade frustrated Venezuelans to overcome their fear, join the marches and turn out a crowd large enough to dispel any doubts about who has the masses on their side.

The opposition is calling on the government to hold new elections, free political prisoners and remove supreme court judges who tried last month to strip Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature of its authority. That move raised an international outcry, and although the court mostly reversed itself the following day, Maduro's opponents found the spark they needed to launch a new protest movement.

Their repeated attempts this month to march to government buildings in downtown Caracas have been beaten back by riot police firing tear gas and pepper spray. Those protests have been large, but not massive by Venezuelan standards. Opposition leaders hoped today's protests would succeed in attracting a broader range of Venezuelans, including those who are angry at the government but may be too intimidated by the threat of violence to march.

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