Protesters light fire outside Hong Kong police station

Police fired tear gas at Hong Kong protesters on Saturday as some activists lit a blaze on the steps outside the Tsim Sha Tsui police station, as part of summer-long demonstrations against now-suspended extradition legislation.

Demonstrators in hard hats cheered when the fire burst into a small explosion. Police said a group of protesters also vandalized a car at the station. A vehicle could be seen with bricks scattered nearby on the ground.

Riot police were seen outside the police stations in both Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok.

Some residents of neighbourhoods affected by the demonstrations Saturday have banded together with pro-democracy protesters in an effort to push riot police out.

Police launched several heavy rounds of tear gas at protesters in the district of Wong Tai Sin, where some residents have come out to join in the demonstration.

A statement from the Hong Kong government says that the police were forced to fire tear gar in the district after they were “surrounded” by “radical protesters” who “hurled miscellaneous objects” at them. 

The street along the protest route in Mong Kok, a bustling shopping district with a history of hosting pro-democracy rallies, was filled with demonstrators, while other roads were reduced to single lanes.

Protesters ignored police warnings and streamed past the designated endpoint for the rally in Tai Kok Tsui, part of Hong Kong’s Kowloon neighbourhood. Tear gas filled the air once they reached Austin Road in Tsim Sha Tsui.

“Strike on Monday!” the protesters shouted as they filled the roads, referring to demonstrators’ calls for a citywide shutdown. Shop owners shuttered their storefronts in anticipation of a prolonged demonstration.

One black-clad protester directed traffic for a line of taxis attempting to get through. Some passing drivers honked their horns and yelled words of encouragement, eliciting cheers from the crowd.

Some protesters carried part of a fence during the march. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Police warned earlier in the day that those who continued past the pre-approved route would be breaking the law. They called on protesters to stick to designated routes and times after violent clashes marred previous rallies.

Police held a briefing Saturday ahead of the scheduled rally in Mong Kok. Any demonstrations that are not pre-approved will be “cleared out” as unlawful assemblies, police said.

Others removed traffic cones. (Eloisa Lopez/Reuters )

A 44-year-old non-profit worker surnamed Wai said he was worried about protesters’ safety because violent incidents have often occurred after marches draw to a close.

“Some things have gone too far,” Wai said. “Hong Kong’s future belongs to all of us. We need to keep it safe.”

The protests began in opposition to a contentious extradition bill, but have continued despite the government’s decision to suspend the legislation that would have sent some suspects to mainland China for trial.

While the rallies have been largely peaceful, they have increasingly devolved into skirmishes with police after some protesters refused to disperse at assigned times. Since the rallies began in early June, protesters have vandalized buildings and thrown bricks, while police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Protesters march through the Mong Kok neighbourhood in Hong Kong on Saturday. (Vincent Thian/The Associated Press)

A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under the framework of “one country, two systems.” The city’s mini-constitution promises the city certain freedoms not afforded to those in the mainland, but Hong Kongers say Beijing has chipped away at their autonomy in recent years.

Several thousand civil servants and their supporters crowded into a public park on Friday evening to show solidarity with the movement, which has broadened to include demands for direct elections and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

People don masks before the start of the march in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images)

Hong Kong residents have accused police of negligence after 44 people were injured last month in an attack that appeared to target protesters. Authorities said their resources were stretched due to the prolonged demonstrations.

On Saturday, people dressed in white gathered at a Hong Kong park to express their support for the police.

Mong Kok was one area where protesters set up a pro-democracy demonstration zone in 2014. Near the end of the Occupy Central protests of that year, police officers descended on the site and tore down the metal barricades, bamboo and wooden planks protesters had used to block off key streets.

A protester is engulfed in tear gas during the march. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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