HONG KONG (AP) – Hong Kong authorities cleared street barricades from a pro-democracy protest camp in the volatile Mong Kok district for a second day Wednesday after a night of clashes in which police arrested 116 people.
People wearing red baseball caps and T-shirts that said “I (heart) HK” helped dismantle a first row of barricades made up mostly of wooden pallets after bailiffs issued a warning to the crowd that they would start enforcing the court-ordered clearance.
Police officers in helmets soon stepped in, using shears to clear further rows of metal barricades while others tore down tents and canopies and carried away other obstructions, including a sofa. Hundreds of other officers advanced slowly along the street while some stood by with backpack pepper sprayers.
Local media reports said 4,000 officers were on hand to enforce the court injunction granted to taxi drivers to remove obstructions from Nathan Road, a busy artery in Kowloon.
Police said that the 116 people arrested as of early Wednesday were held for offences including unlawful assembly and assaulting or obstructing police. One man was arrested for possessing offensive weapons including an axe, hammer and crowbar.
The arrest toll was likely to rise after police were seen detaining several more people as the operation got underway, including student leaders Joshua Wong and Lester Shum, according to the Hong Kong Federation of Students’ Facebook page.
Nine officers were hurt in the scuffles.
Protesters have been camped out on major thoroughfares since Sept. 28 demanding greater democracy in the semiautonomous Chinese city. The standoff has continued with no end in sight as neither the government nor the student-led protesters have shown any willingness to compromise.
The demonstrators demand that Hong Kong’s government scrap a plan mandated by China’s communist leaders to use a panel of Beijing-friendly elites to screen candidates for top leader in inaugural 2017 elections.
The chaotic scenes overnight underscored the challenge Hong Kong authorities face in trying to shut down the protest site in gritty, working-class Mong Kok. It’s home to a more unruly and aggressive crowd compared with the main protest site next to government headquarters, where protesters last week put up little resistance to a separate court order to remove a handful of barricades.
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