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A large-scale march from Tsim Sha Tsui to Sham Shui Po on Saturday ended peacefully as both police and protesters showed restraint.
At 3pm, thousands of protesters, wearing masks and black shirts, gathered at the Clock Tower in Tsim Sha Tsui for a march to Sham Shui Po. The crowd filled Salisbury Road and then one side of Nathan Road but were not warned by police for the gathering, which police had deemed an “illegal assembly” because organizers did not obtain an official letter of no-objection.
Marchers were generally peaceful with few attacks on pro-Beijing shops and Chinese banks. Over the past few days, political commentators had urged protesters to avoid vandalism, which they said could lead to a drop in public support for the pro-democracy movement. The crowd chanted slogans such as “Hong Kong people, rebel!” and sang an anti-police song.
On Oct. 4 evening, an angry crowd had protested against the anti-mask law in several districts. Some radical black-shirted protesters were seen vandalizing security cameras, gates and signs in some MTR subway stations. The MTR shut down most stations during holidays from Oct. 5-7.
On Oct. 8, some plainclothes police officers were accused of impersonating “masked rioters” in the closed Sheung Shui MTR station, prompting some protesters to suggest that the impersonators had vandalized public facilities. A police spokesperson admitted that plainclothes police were in the station but had not been involved in criminal activities.
Political commentators and lawmakers later suggested that the anti-mask law made no sense and only served to provoke the protesters. They said a de facto curfew had been launched as the MTR Corp had stopped services in the evening while police arrested protesters on the streets, near colleges and on private property such as shopping malls and housing estates. They urged protesters to stay calm before the US Congress discusses the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Acts on October 15.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump announced a partial trade deal with China in the morning Hong Kong time. Trump said the Hong Kong protests had toned down as there were fewer protesters on the streets. He said the protest movement would “take care of itself.”
Although extensive vandalism was not seen on the streets on Saturday, a few masked people tore down a wooden board covering a damaged Best Mart 360 shop in Mong Kok. Chairs and tables were removed from a previously-vandalized Starbucks coffee shop. Someone fired a bag of paint at a Genki Sushi restaurant with a large slingshot.
Genki Sushi and Hong Kong’s Starbucks are operated by restaurant group Maxim’s Caterers. Annie Wu Suk-ching, the daughter of the group’s founder, had earlier shown support for the extradition law. Maxim’s said Wu was not involved in the group’s operations.
Some marchers pasted up posters memorializing the death of Chan Yin-lam, 15, whose naked body was found in a pool of water in Yau Tong on September 22.
At 4:30pm, police came out of the Tsim Sha Tsui police station and started clearing the roads. They followed the marchers but kept a distance of several hundred meters to avoid confrontation with protesters. A helicopter hovered overhead to monitor the crowd.
At 5:10pm, a dozen marchers broke into the Cheung Sha Wan Government Offices building and damaged a fire sprinkler system. About 100 police arrived within minutes but did not arrest anyone. The march began to shrink in Sham Shui Po while the remaining protesters dispersed in Lai Chi Kok and Mei Foo around 6pm. Protesters said they would join protests in 18 districts on Sunday.
In the evening, some small clashes between police and masked people occurred in Mong Kok and Cheung Sha Wan.
In Wan Chai, a group of elderly people began a two-day sit-in protest in front of the police headquarters. They urged the police not to hurt young people.