Hong Kong protesters were back on the streets on Monday to mark the first anniversary of a pivotal moment of last year’s protests, with police using pepper spray in violent tussles to dispel groups of demonstrators as they moved to clear streets toward the end of the day.
Small groups of protesters chanted slogans and gathered outside a subway train station where police officers were accused of using excessive force against protesters and citizens on Aug. 31 last year, when some officers were captured on live news footage charged into carriageways to beat up passengers with batons.
After that point, protests that had started out to oppose a controversial extradition arrangement with mainland China spiraled into violence. Police deployed more mechanized and chemical crowd control equipment and began using real bullets just weeks later. Protesters grew more organized and fought back with petrol bombs, making global headlines as fires blazed in Asia’s leading international financial center.
The refusal by authorities to set up an independent investigation also spurred rumors that some people may have died during the clashes inside the train station.
Outside the Prince Edward MTR station, some protesters commemorated what became known as the “831 incident” by laying flowers. Social worker and activist Hendrick Lui told reporters he was fined for littering after laying 12 flowers and reading from his Bible. “Is my Bible rubbish too,” he asked.
Others were stopped and searched in the Mongkok area of the city as a strong police presence seemed to have been deployed to deter crowds from gathering.
As dusk fell, police cordoned off certain intersections and started clearing streets: they used pepper spray and some passers-by, including a pregnant woman, were shoved to the ground.
“Some protesters gathered and chanted slogans … at least 12 people were arrested, including a 17-year-old male claiming to be a reporter,” a police spokesperson said on the force’s Facebook page.
Nine were arrested for unlawful assembly while the rest were arrested for disorder in public areas, assaulting police officers and one for possession of an imitation firearm. Police gave no additional information on the latter.
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