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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Belligerence, Brawls and Bemusement in Mongkok

So this is my 'hood.

Filled with a warren of independent boutiques, chain stores, street markets, nightclubs, hourly-rated hotels, local cafes, restaurants, massage parlours and karaoke bars, Mongkok is unapologetically raucous, in-your-face, vibrant, and after all these years, still infused with a whiff of seediness that gentrification from the Langham Place complex had not quite successfully erased.

It is therefore no surprise (at least to me) that when the Occupy Central movement decided to branch out to Mongkok and, well, occupy the incredibly busy intersection of Nathan Road and Argyle Street, things got way more volatile and combustible there than at the other two protest sites at Admiralty and Causeway Bay.  For one thing, there are proportionately more economic activities, legal or otherwise, in Mongkok on a 24/7 cycle than in, say, the civil section of Admiralty, where most of the offices would be closed during public holidays and weekends.  And second, this is Mongkok, for crying out loud.  With all the tens of thousands of small business owners, residents, shoppers - and yes, since it's all out in the open in the media anyway - triads making their living in the neighbourhood, it's not a big stretch of the imagination to anticipate that any major disruptions in that very same space would at the very least bring about some heated discussions, if not outright brawls and smackdowns.

And that's exactly what happened, and unfortunately is still happening as of this post's update.

I didn't see some of the more violent fracas when I walked over to check out the scene at the Mongkok protest site but there were some sporadic tense interactions nonetheless.  Here are my snaps of my time behind the protesters' barricades.  
Looking eastward on Argyle Street toward the intersection at Nathan Road where the protesters were congregated with their tents and loudspeakers.

A closer view of the first-line defenders at their makeshift barricade.
View of another section of the barricade (the white car is part of it) from the back. On Argyle Street.

From top left photo: Anti-Occupy protesters were shouting over the barricade at the students on the right.  One of the anti-guys then shoved the barricade about a foot (top right photo) which prompted the students to surge forward.  Cops then had to step in to hold both sides back as the shouting matches around them escalated.
Making one's case. And vice versa.
The peanut gallery

This guy was making his heated arguments against the Occupy Central movement.......

.....directly to the bemused Occupy protesters across the barricade, one of whom dismissed him by shaking his head, laughing, and putting on his earbuds.

Giving an animated rundown on recent spats to other onlookers

A vigilant protester
Occupy protesters at the ready, manning the makeshift first-aid stall, giving interviews, arguing with anti-Occupy factions.

The divider along Nathan Road is a pretty good vantage point for onlookers.
Curious gawkers from the mainland.

Text 'em if you've got 'em

Taking some downtime in the middle of Nathan Road

More downtime on Nathan Road - this time, with style.

Food stalls and stores that are normally packed along Argyle Street and Nathan Road are seeing a discernible dip in customers and revenues
Posters on one of the several abandoned KMB buses on Nathan Road


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