HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong protesters flooded the city’s streets on Sunday in defiance of a ban by the authorities on their march, setting up roadblocks and tossing firebombs amid the firing of tear gas by police.
Protest leaders carried a black banner at the front of the procession that read, “Five main demands, not one less,” as they pressed their calls for accountability and political rights in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Police beefed up security measures for the unauthorized rally, the latest chapter in unrest that has disrupted life in the financial hub since early June.
Black-clad and masked protesters barricaded streets at multiple locations in Kowloon, where the city’s subway operator restricted passenger access.
The protesters tore off stones from the sidewalk and scattered them on the road, commandeered plastic safety barriers and unscrewed metal railings to form makeshift roadblocks.
They sang the protest movement’s anthem and held up placards depicting the Chinese flag as a Nazi swastika.
Matthew Lee, a university student, said he was determined to keep protesting even after more than four months.
“I can see some people want to give up, but I don’t want to do this because Hong Kong is my home, we want to protect this place, protect Hong Kong,” he said. “You can’t give up because Hong Kong is your home.”
A water cannon truck and armored car led a column of dozens of police vans down Nathan Road, a major artery lined with shops, stopping frequently to spray liquid tinted blue as they moved to clear the road of protesters and barricades.
Residents jeered at riot police walking alongside the vehicles, cursing them and telling them to leave. The officers, in turn, told people they were part of an illegal assembly and warned them to leave, and unleashed rounds of tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowds.
Along the way, protesters trashed outlets of a discount grocery chain because of what they say is its pro-Beijing ownership. They also tried to set fire to ATMs and branches of mainland Chinese banks, setting off sprinklers in at least two.
As night fell, protesters returned to the streets, setting trash on fire in intersections. Police responded with more tear gas.
Many of the protesters wore masks in defiance of a recently introduced ban on face coverings at public gatherings, and volunteers handed more out to the crowd.
Organizers said they wanted to use their right to protest as guaranteed by the city’s constitution despite the risk of arrest.
“We’re using peaceful, rational, nonviolent ways to voice our demands,” Figo Chan, vice convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, told reporters. “We’re not afraid of being arrested. What I’m most scared of is everyone giving up on our principles.”
The group has organized some of the movement’s biggest protest marches. One of its leaders, Jimmy Sham, was attacked on Wednesday by assailants wielding hammers.
On Saturday, Hong Kong police arrested a 22-year-old man on suspicion of stabbing a teenage activist who was distributing leaflets near a wall plastered with pro-democracy messages. A witness told local broadcaster RTHK that the assailant shouted afterward that Hong Kong is “a part of China” and other pro-Beijing messages.
The protest movement sprang out of opposition to a government proposal for an extradition bill that would have sent suspects to mainland China to stand trial, and then ballooned into broader demands for full democracy and an inquiry into alleged police brutality.
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