For several hours on Monday, the Legislative Council building in Admiralty witnessed an assault unprecedented in size and intensity, as hundreds of mostly young protesters demanding the complete withdrawal of the government’s now-suspended extradition bill attacked the glass front with makeshift battering rams.
The protesters used a cage trolley and metal poles to repeatedly ram the legislature’s glass front, manhandling a handful of opposition lawmakers who had supported their protests so far but were trying to stop the violence.
Police stood by inside the building throughout the day, fully equipped with riot gear, while the crowd went on the rampage outside, and were nowhere to be seen when the protesters finally forced their way inside at night and vandalised the chamber.
They smashed open the glass door at a side entrance and were pepper-sprayed through the breach by officers inside, who had to put on heavy-duty masks at one stage as an unknown powder flung at them set off acrid fumes. It was later identified as lime. Others dismantled metal fencing outside Legco, stripping away and carrying off the long poles that stood as barriers.
The utter chaos prompted the Legco Secretariat to issue a red alert for the first time, evacuating the building of all non-essential staff.
In a statement condemning the protesters' actions, the government said: “Some radical protesters stormed the Legislative Council Complex with extreme violence. These protesters seriously jeopardised the safety of police officers and members of the public. Such violent acts are unacceptable to society.”
Around 9pm, protesters broke through the security shutters of the main entrance but initially did not enter. Behind the shutters, police officers stood in full riot gear. Their warnings to the protesters were drowned out by the noise. They then retreated
The protesters swarmed into the legislature, vandalising the premises and tearing down portraits of the city’s political leaders. They broke into the main chamber, spraying slogans on the walls, covering Hong Kong’s official emblem with black paint and draping a British colonial flag over the Legco president’s podium.
It was after midnight when hundreds of riot police left their headquarters in Wan Chai to swoop into action.
By that time, the last of the diehard protesters remaining in the chamber had left the building to join hundreds waiting outside in the public demonstration area, from where they regrouped on Harcourt Road, Tim Mei Avenue and Lung Wui Road around the complex.
Police advanced, clearing roadblocks and responding with tear gas as retreating protesters threw bricks, eggs and umbrellas at them.
By 1am, it was all but over and police had taken back the entire area around the legislature, after driving off scattered pockets of protesters.