Eyewitnesses say dozens of protesters stormed the Kuwaiti parliament Wednesday evening, while hundreds more demonstrated outside.
Calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah and shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), protesters broke open the gates of parliament and entered the main chamber. Footage aired by Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya seems to show large numbers of white-robed demonstrators storming the building.
The protests were reportedly led by opposition MP Mussallam al-Barrak, a vocal critic of the Kuwaiti ruling authorities, following the alleged beating of several demonstrators during a march on the Prime Minister's house.
Dr. Sami Alfaraj, head of independent think tank the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies, said the "violence" and anger showed by the protesters was "unprecedented."
"Musallam al-Barrak used language not heard by anyone before, calling on the ruling family... saying that 'if you try to tread on our rights...then we shall tread on your rights'," he said.
"Both [protesters and security personnel] were injured in this crash but the wounds of the security personnel were more serious," he added.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister confirmed the incident, but said that it was a "small thing" and not representative of Kuwaiti society.
"These are small things, it is nothing," he told the IBTimes. "Some members of the government and people were drunk and they went inside [the parliament]."
The possession and consumption of alcohol is illegal under Kuwaiti law.
Dr. Alfaraj dismissed the accusations of drunkenness among protesters, saying: "Some [people] will try to use whatever [they can] to try and defend their position."
Anti-government protests have become a weekly occurrence in Kuwait, where allegations of corruption have led to several political scandals. Kuwait's foreign minister resigned Nov. 8 amid unclear circumstances.
Opposition groups Tuesday attempted to pass a request to question the Prime Minister about these allegations, but the motion was voted down in parliament. The disagreement led to a boycott of Wednesday's parliamentary session by about 20 opposition MPs.
Kuwait's parliament is one of the few elected bodies in the Gulf, but activists accuse the ruling Sabah family of endemic corruption and of failing to effectively run the country. Tension has been building in recent months over allegations that 16 MPs received $350 million in bribes.
Kuwait has not experienced the mass protests that toppled leaders across the Maghreb, and the wealthy state provides its citizens with an extremely generous welfare system.
But there are other tensions simmering below the surface of Kuwaiti society, suggests Dr. Alfaraj; predominantly between "old" Kuwaitis and "newcomers" - those from tribal backgrounds who are known as "bidoon", or stateless.
"There is a division [in Kuwaiti society] that people do not talk about," he said.
"The polarisation will be between the two segments of the population : the old Kuwaitis and the 'newcomers'."
According to recent government statistics the population of "bidoon" in Kuwait currently numbers around 95,000 people of a total population of just over 3 million. Although the Kuwaiti government officially recognised the bidoon in a 1999 law, only a few hundred of them have received Kuwaiti citizenship. Indeed, of the 3 million people living in Kuwait, it is estimated that nearly 2 million are not of Kuwaiti nationality. This has resulted in a demographic split in the country that has been described as "a time-bomb that might explode at any minute."