This is what my democracy looks like (debrief at the end).
Here’s what happened: People got together in Plaza Italia (not clear if there were 30,000 throughout the length of Chile or 30,000 just in Santiago), then started marching down the Alameda. They were stopped by a line of police in riot gear, and the police announced at 7:05 PM that anyone not involved with the march should please leave, on several occasions. A full 20 minutes later, the first water cannon was fired. Water from water cannons (guanacos in local parlance) is not just water here in Chile, it usually has irritants in it. Here I wrote about one of my first experiences with this concoction.
Another 15 minutes later, more water, and this time with teargas canisters deployed. I had biked around from Plaza Italia to the backside of the protest, behind the police. After the teargas was shot (7:37 PM), I took off to go down to La Moneda where I knew, from a friend (and the miracle of cell phones), that a mass of people was collecting. There was singing, and chanting, some of it beautiful, some of it not. People from “las etnias” (indigenous representation, presumably Mapuche) arrived, dancing. We stood around, watching people light candles, eating empanadas and taking photos. In the end, what drove me away this time were a couple of bald-faced ne’er-do-wells, ripping down barriers, spray paint at the ready, (last photo, with graffiti that has nothing to do with this particular event), cagily checking out our bikes, getting drunk. I got home by 9:00, and could hear the shouting, the sirens until past 10. I tried to go out on the balcony to get a better view, but the tear gas drove me back inside.