As we entered another 11th week-end of protests in Hong Kong, on 17 August, the police prohibited or severely restricted all the protests taking place on Saturday and Sunday. Once again, it seemed that I would be reporting from the Hong Kong frontlines, instead of enjoying a peaceful week-end relaxation.
Another “long march”
A recurring pattern of the last few weeks has been that the police prohibits marches or severely curtails them. The protests gather and follow the permitted route, and then veer off the route. This happened also on last Saturday where the march was to take place from Hung Hom to To Kwa Wan, in one of the poorest areas of Kowloon.
As we neared To Kwa Wan, we spotted a group of protesters marching on the road (which was closed to traffic by a police roadblock). We joined them and then started a long march towards Mongkok. No slogans were sung, protesters marched mainly on the pavement. A few hundreds kids were there, but also an older man without mask. He explained that he shared his life between HK and London and took a leave of absence to come and support protesters at this important venture for his city.
As the march went on, we neared Mongkok, where we learned that protests had targeted the local police station.
As we were marching, twitter feeds started resonating of crowds before the Mongkok police station, shining lasers and pelleting the station with eggs and other projectiles.
We took a break for about half an hour to 45 minutes and then decided to go back, as the protesters kept gearing up in the surroundings.
Mitchy managed to take quite some nice pics with her fuji camera in this “lull before the storm”.
As we were loitering around, we saw both protesters and the police pointing powerful lights and lasers towards photographers established on a rooftop directly opposite the police station.
It must be emphasized that the lasers with which the protesters play come from China, are often not calibrated and can definitely injure someone in case of direct contact with the eyes.
This calm on the Hong Kong frontlines was indeed just a preparation for the upcoming storm. On Nathan Road, in the meantime, the police was preparing. They showed up at the top of the road and all of a sudden, protesters were yelling, and getting ready to run. That was when police lights appeared and a line of riot police appeared. Everybody started running, including the journalists. The police started charging. This gave place to some surreal scenes.
We got separated, and Mitchy got stranded behind the police lines. I kept running (the protesters having by now far outpaced me in their sprint), and, of course, took a side road and climbed on to an overpass, which offered a better viewpoint.
Mitchy, who remained behind, managed closer range pictures.
Eventually, police vans came onto Sai Yeung Choi South street, and were caught up in a traffic bottleneck.
Protesters on the bridge started to heckle the police and even to shine lasers into their eyes or throw objects on the vans.
As the confrontation heated up, some protesters started throwing trash bins down on the police vans below. At this point, a policeman exited and shot one bean bag onto the bridge provoking a general panic. The sense of brotherhood among protesters was incredible, many instructing others to run, before the stampede took place.
After this row of confrontation, a new line of police was established, mainly with police facing journalists (in yellow vests).
Protesters eventually retreated to a mall near the Mongkok East MTR station, leaving journalists alone to follow the police.
After resting and taking stock of the situation, most protesters either went home, or headed to other confrontation areas, namely Wong Tai Sin. In one day, we had experienced a typical week-end in Hong Kong, made of cat and mouse games with the police. Notwithstanding this, the next day would be far quieter.