Violence damped down

Hundreds of thousands of protesters yesterday braved a heavy downpour to rally against police brutality, showing the world that peaceful demonstrations have a place in Hong Kong. Organizers claimed 1.7 million people joined the protest. In a new tactic, people stepped out...

Phoenix Un and Cindy Wan

Monday, August 19, 2019

Hundreds of thousands of protesters yesterday braved a heavy downpour to rally against police brutality, showing the world that peaceful demonstrations have a place in Hong Kong.

Organizers claimed 1.7 million people joined the protest.

In a new tactic, people stepped out in a loop between Causeway Bay and Central throughout the day, defying a police ban on a march.

Despite the big turnout on the 11th weekend of protests, no clashes occurred and for a second consecutive day no tear gas was fired.

That was despite action on Saturday when protesters stoned a police vehicle in marching to Mong Kok from To Kwa Wan and Hung Hom.

With a theme "Against Police Violence," yesterday's rally organizer, the Civil Human Rights Front, had applied for clearance for a march from Victoria Park to the Chater Road pedestrian precinct in Central. But the police objected and instead restricted approval for an assembly at Victoria Park.

But crowds had by 2pm filled the park's six football pitches and were spilling into Hennessy Road and Yee Wo Street. The front made a deal with the police that a crowd would move in the direction of Central to free up space for other protesters to join the assembly.

Even so, said front convener Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, the force used by the police went beyond an acceptable level in the eyes of citizens.

He also quoted examples of some officers calling protesters "cockroaches," saying it echoed how the Nazis called Jews "rats" while the Hutus also called Tutsis also cockroaches during the Rwandan genocide.

Still, at 3.30pm a "fluid rally" arrangement was in place as former legislators Albert Ho Chun-yan, Lee Cheuk-yan, Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee and Cyd Ho Sau-lan plus media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chi-ying led the crowd out of the park.

They held a giant banner reading "Put an End to Chaos of Police and Triads and Fulfill All Five Demands" and walked along Hennessy Road - as protesters did during mega marches on June 9 and June 16.

So yesterday's march occupied two westbound lanes of Hennessy Road while two eastbound lanes were reserved for the crowd heading to Victoria Park.

And with many protesters heading to the park via the MTR, the rail operator announced that trains would not stop at the Tin Hau, Causeway Bay and Fortress Hill stations. That forced many people to start walking towards Victoria Park from North Point.

When the first protesters arrived in Central, Lee asked them to turn around and head back to Victoria Park. Droves of protesters duly walked along Queensway in the direction of Causeway Bay.

But thousands of protesters also stayed on Harcourt Road and directed laser beams on riot police at the Central Government Offices and officers at the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison headquarters.

They also shouted slogans such as "Hong Kong police knowingly violate laws."

Others occupied Harcourt Road and Tim Mei Road and delayed traffic heading for the Cross Harbour Tunnel.

Despite these actions, there was minimal police interference as the night wore on.

But some officials had not liked what they saw and heard. Just 20 minutes into the assembly a government spokesman had termed the them rally theme of being against police violence "regrettable."

It was also claimed officers had acted with restraint even when facing unlawful assemblies and violence that led to 180 officers being injured since June.

Last night also saw protesters grabbing a mainlander in their midst near the central government offices and accusing him of being a "spy" and taking photographs of protesters.

An elderly man who tried to attack him was blocked by other protesters who shouted: "Just take a photo of him and put it on Weibo."

So instead of beating him - like some did to two men at the airport on Tuesday - protesters "thanked" him for his support and pictured him with a banner. The man was clearly embarrassed and sought to hide from the cameras.

And although some protesters were reluctant to let the man leave, others escorted him away to safety.

Meanwhile, two water cannon vehicles were on standby at Hong Kong Police College in Wong Chuk Hang yesterday - but they did not have to be deployed.

It was the first time for the specialized crowd-management vehicles to leave the Police Tactical Unit Headquarters in Fan Ling, but only two of the three vehicles had been on standby.

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Editorial:

Let's not fool ourselves and force issue