Tents were torn apart, supply stations destroyed, placards were ripped down and brawls broke out as the mob tore through the encampment at the junction of Argyle Street and Nathan Road.
Police cordoned off parts of the Kowloon thoroughfare as anti-Occupy activists repeatedly broke through thin police lines, lashing out and cursing at pro-democracy demonstrators. Stranded buses were quickly removed.
Students estimated that fewer than one thousand Occupy Central protesters were present at the camp on Friday.
Chaotic tussles reigned for several hours with just a few dozen police present. It was only when reinforcements arrived at nightfall, that police officers were able to securely separate the two groups.
As the showdown unfolded, pro-democracy protesters chanted “universal suffrage” over appeals to police from the anti-Occupy crowd to “open the area.”
When questioned about the slow police response, Superintendent Renouf, of the Hong Kong Police Mong Kok division, told Hong Wrong “I don’t think it was.”
Police later admitted that the sluggish response was due to road gridlock, meaning reinforcements had to be brought in on the MTR.
No tear gas, pepper spray or rubber bullets were deployed, but some officers were spotted carrying warning banners used to advise citizens when force may be used.
Desperate to report an incident of assault to the police, this man stood with his hand raised for over 20-minutes, demanding – in vain – to have an officer note his complaint.
Commenting on police plans, Renouf’s colleague Superintendent Tate (right), said that “we always use a tremendous amount of restraint.” Tate also warned residents not to head to Mong Kok, in light of the unrest.
Several journalists reported being attacked by angry anti-Occupy activists, including Hong Wrong, who was struck by a man, in orange, wielding a plastic bottle. (Said blogger suffered ‘mild surprise’, but no injury – rumours of his death are greatly exaggerated).
An Australian visitor, who wished to be known simply as Matte, was linking arms with students to protect the camp. He said “if these lines get blurred, we may be isolated and attacked.”
Fearing further violence, some pro-democracy protesters removed their yellow ribbons – a symbol representing universal suffrage. One protester was told to remove their ribbon and wear it “in their heart.”
Pro-democracy protesters raised their hands to show they were peaceful. No evidence has emerged of those on the Occupy-side initiating violence.
Luke, a protester who gave only his first name, was amongst several pro-democracy protesters who insisted the agitators had been paid. “We have evidence in the past that some of these people are paid,” he said.