Day 5 of #occupycentral started slowly, with only a few people at the main sites in the morning — 30 reported at TST and a handful at admilralty. I walked down after lunch, turned out that my black t-shirt fit in with the unofficial protester dress code. The bottom of garden road was deserted, ironically also the road outside the BoC building with its national day banner. Walked up the flyover towards admiralty and the scene was different — people milling around the nornally busy road, student protesters sitting at the side of the road and impromptu gatherings giving anyone and everyone their 3-minutes to address the crowd.
Lots of signs, almost all of them handmade. People could just grab a piece of cardboard, a post-it note or a blank sheet of paper and write or draw whatever was on their minds. The signs were then displayed at various locations — along the side of the concrete flyover, on the pavement, at the side of a building. Some signs were by and in different languages too, it was moving to see. It was, like the #occupycentral movement itself, ad hoc and free of rules or pretentions.
After the police tear gas attack on Sunday, the movement also attracted the name of #umbrellarevolution. An umbrella sculpture took pride of place at civic square outside the legco building, and a bank of umbrellas lined the side of the road nearby.
What impressed the world about this protest was that it was spearheaded by students. The movement was described as having the world’s politest protesters and had its own idiosyncracies. There were supply stations providing water, snacks, towels, cooling patches, first aid. People donated all sorts to the students and someone was pushing a trolley full of fruit. There was a loudspeaker announcement that the supplies were for people who needed them, not tourists. I did grab a pear, it was hot and I was running low on energy. I also saw a group of people donating a large container of starbucks coffee and a couple giving chocolate and biscuits to the students. Volunteers were also out in force collecting rubbish. This was probably the only protest in the world where participants were encouraged to a) take their rubbish home or, failing that, b) sorting their recyclables into different black bin bags. The road had never been so clean.
Other images include kids doing homework — I saw a girl studying a powerpoint printout entitled market research, drawing signs or making ribbons. When the crowds got too noisy cheering a speechmaker, or a bottleneck appeared, a volunteer would politely ask the crowds to calm down or disperse. Far too often, protests get derailed because passions become overheated and people act impusively. Rocks get thrown at the police, looting occurs or other groups with different agendas hijack the movement, turning it violent and giving governments excuses to escalate and start cracking down. The organisers of this came prepared and the training showed.
I was there between 2-4pm, and the crowd had swelled by the time I left. The atmosphere was serious but not tense. Many people were there with their children, family and even pets. It was sort of like a carnival without the noise, loud music and rubbish everywhere. Ultimately though, we were reminded that this was not a party. The occupy zone was protected by barricades that could be charged by the police at any moment. The zone was also bookended by the PLA headquarters at the western end and the police headquarters at the eastern end.
I’ve been following on twitter and fb and things are getting more tense as the night progresses. The protest has been taking place during a “good” week — wednesday and thursday were public holidays so the city is quiet and a lot of people had taken the week off. Business day on Friday, and BAU expected on monday. How the government would tolerate an entire week of disruptions at the busiest areas is anyone’s guess. Buses are diverted or cancelled; some shops and restaurants are closed; all of us who live at mid-levels / peak have a hard time getting to and from home. It’s a waiting game.
As an aside, something has been bothering me for a while. I posted links, pics and videos on instagram, twitter and fb. I’ve been getting feedback on both instagram and twitter but absolutely no reaction on fb. Zero. I’m guessing either a) fb’s great algorithm in the sky has been hiding my posts or b) my fb friends have no interest in something that is happening outside their region or their comfort zone; seems that if I want attention I should pretend to be a buzzfeed quiz, cat or baseball team. Ah well, why am I surprised. Time to consider scaling down fb anyway.
p.s. apologies to those of you who actually read this post, I appreciate you and I know who you are.
p.p.s. flickr set: here