On the weekend of the PolyU takeover, a volunteer driver picked up Jimmy late Sunday morning, then made a fast cease to select up his pal earlier than dashing them to the college. They arrived round midday as tensions had been rising, with police starting to shut in on the campus. “We equipped instantly and went to the entrance line,” Jimmy says.
The objective, he outlined, was twofold. One goal was to cease police from getting into the college. “That is no place for them, we’ve to guard our campus,” he says of his pondering on the time. Secondly, protesters needed to close down the street and prepare hyperlinks that run by the campus, particularly an entrance to the busy Cross-Harbour Tunnel that connects Kowloon to Hong Kong island. This could cripple key parts of the town’s infrastructure.
Jimmy positioned himself at a significant intersection, the place he says he discovered the scenario “fairly messy.” Officers had been firing tear gasoline and a few of the protesters had been panicked, Jimmy says, as rumors circulated that police had been sending reinforcements. Backup did finally arrive, and it got here with a water cannon truck that started to fireside on Jimmy and his fellow protesters, who guarded themselves with makeshift shields.
The excessive strain blasts are in of and themselves a robust weapon, however police additionally laced the water with a liquid irritant that has comparable results to pepper spray and with vivid blue dye, aspiring to mark protesters for identification later. “Individuals subsequent to me had been saying ‘Oh my God, it stings, it hurts,’” he says.
Standing in his inexperienced fatigues throughout from Jimmy was 27-year-old Cheng, considered one of round 2,000 law enforcement officials deployed to the campus that Sunday. Cheng, who has been on the pressure for 5 years, arrived earlier than midday, redeployed by his superiors from a smaller protest close by. Police, Cheng says, had been involved about petrol bombs contained in the campus and had been initially despatched to filter out protesters, then reopen the encircling roads obstructed by demonstrators.
Nevertheless it shortly turned obvious that bombarding protesters with tear gasoline was “ineffective,” Cheng provides. “It didn’t work in any respect as a result of the protesters had been proof against the tear gasoline with their masks and kit. They even had a method of throwing them [tear gas canisters] again on the police.” Officers hoped the arrival of the water cannons would lastly break the protest traces, however demonstrators held sturdy, returning again into campus to strip, bathe, and relaxation as others took their place on the entrance line.
Cheng, who met me at a espresso store inside a mall on his second time without work after a two-week shift, says he needed to turn into a police officer after rising up on a gentle eating regimen of Hong Kong movies that glorified the pressure. Earlier than June he spent most of his time on foot patrols, strolling the town’s streets and responding to on a regular basis disturbances—small-time thefts and disputes between store homeowners.
The protests had consumed his work for the previous few months, however Cheng says he has grown disillusioned along with his fellow officers, and after secretly becoming a member of protests himself is now in search of a approach out. “I believe most of my colleagues have given up on a peaceable solution to deal with the protests, they may take any probability to beat or arrest protesters,” he acknowledges.
The turning level for police got here afterward Sunday afternoon, based on Cheng, when a media liaison officer’s calf was pierced by an arrow. “It was seen as a deadly assault,” he recounts. His colleagues believed “protesters needed to kill the police,” he says, and had been infuriated that they weren’t shortly licensed to hold extra high-powered weapons, like AR-15s and submachine weapons from the police arsenal.