HONG KONG - Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators clashed with dozens of masked men at the main protest site in the city centre Monday as police struggled to contain the chaos.
Masked men rushed barricades at the Admiralty site as protesters tried to guard the barriers and push the men back.
Two of the men were tackled to the ground by police, who also formed a cordon around the masked group as protesters shouted: "Weapons! Weapons!" and "Arrest the triads".
Hong Kong protests: Police remove barricades at Admiralty protest site
Hong Kong police early Monday started removing street barricades at sites where pro-democracy demonstrators have been holding more than two weeks of rallies, paralysing parts of the Chinese financial hub.
Police had started moving in to clear barriers at the edges of the main protest site in Admiralty, catching some demonstrators unawares after their numbers had dwindled overnight, AFP correspondents saw.
But protesters, some of whom had been sleeping in tents, remained at the site and the police said they were intent on clearing blockages to traffic rather than ending the protests outright, as morning commuters weaved around the opposing lines on foot.
"Police urge protesters to listen to the advice of the police, not to obstruct the police action, to remove obstacles blocking the roads as soon as possible, and to leave the scene in a peaceful and orderly manner," a police statement said.
The message was relayed on-site via megaphones. The police were dressed in high-visibility jackets but not wearing riot gear.
At least two dozen police vans were parked close to Admiralty, in Central, and police were also gathering at a secondary site in Mongkok.
There was a heated stand-off Sunday as a pro-government group marched on Mongkok - a flashpoint district which has seen ugly scuffles - with police intervening to keep them apart from the rival activists.
Some demonstrators in Admiralty early on Monday wielded umbrellas, which have become emblematic of the Hong Kong movement, to guard against any police pepper spray.
"I'm angry because this umbrella movement belongs to the Hong Kong students. The police (should not be) our enemy but our friends," Kim Kwan, a 21-year-old student, told AFP, decrying Monday's intervention.