Hundreds of Hong Kong police were seen Tuesday morning using chainsaws and other equipment to break down barricades made by the pro-democracy protesters still lining downtown streets.
The barricades are made of everything from metal scaffolding to bamboo to street signs. Students and their supporters fashioned temporary walls from trash cans, ripped-up carpets and even umbrellas, the symbol of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
The makeup of the movement’s supporters is becoming more diverse. White-collar workers are increasingly turning out on their breaks to assist the students, holding onto the barriers while dressed in suits and ties as police attempt to remove them.
“This is to protect our democracy, to protect our future,” accountant Patrick Chan told The New York Times. “The government doesn’t listen to the Hong Kong people, so we must do this.”
On Monday, other Hong Kong citizens decided they’d had enough of the protests, which have clogged city streets in busy areas like Central, the main financial district, Causeway Bay and Admiralty for two weeks.
Witnesses saw taxi drivers, truck drivers and other residents tearing down two larger structures near the Pacific Place Shopping Mall in the Admiralty district before the police arrived.
Several of the people demolishing the structures were said to be members of the “triads,” the city’s local organized crime gangs. The Associated Press reported that students were shouting “Triads!” as their barriers were broken down.
Protesters had reinforced many of their barricades with plastic and bamboo overnight, but authorities continued to remove them Tuesday morning with wire cutters and electric saws.
On Monday, the Hong Kong government suggested the protesters move their camps to a few local parks and even offered assistance.
“Illegal occupation of roads should end to avoid prolonging the serious repercussions caused to people’s daily lives and work,” the government said in a statement.
The protesters are promising to rebuild their barriers. The demonstrations, which started on Sept. 28, are in response to a pro-Beijing committee that will screen candidates for the 2017 election. The movement is also calling for Beijing-backed leader Leung Chun-ying to resign.