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Many peaceful demonstrators expressed solidarity with the more hardcore protesters who have been fighting pitched street battles with police. Photo: RTHK

‘Peace’ the protest mantra of the day

“Peaceful, rational, non-violent” was the theme of Sunday anti-extradition rally at Victoria Park, and barring a few insults and laser pointers aimed at the police, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators abided by these principles and returned to the city’s tradition of peaceful protest as they sent the government a clear message: listen to the people.

Instead of helmets and goggles, protesters brought their family and friends to the park to express support for the weeks-long demonstrations that have rocked the city.

But, true to the mantra “stay united, don’t be divided” commonly used by protesters, participants were keen to point out that just because Sunday’s rally at Victoria Park was peaceful, they’re not cutting bait with the most young, radical protesters who have been fighting street battles with riot police.

“I understand why they think [the way they do] because they have been betrayed by the police; they have been betrayed by the government in the last few weeks,” one woman said.

Another protester said “I don’t believe they ever intended to hurt anybody.”

A man surnamed Lui said he brought his wife and child to Victoria Park “because we want to show to the world, to the government, to China that there are many, many Hong Kong people who are not supporting them, and most of them are peaceful.”

He said the weeks of violent protests have not changed his mind about supporting the core demands of the protesters – for the government to fully withdraw the suspended extradition bill; set up an inquiry into the recent clashes; grant amnesty to all protesters; retract the official description of the unrest as ‘riots’, and grant universal suffrage to the people.

“In the long run… peaceful expressions of dissatisfaction is the best way, because only this can last, can endure… If you use violence I don’t think you can last long”, he added.

Lui said despite persistent reports that mainland paramilitary forces or even the People’s Liberation Army may move to quell the protests, he is unafraid because this isn’t a battle of weapons and arms.

“The only way we can beat them is us – ordinary citizens of Hong Kong… coming out peaceful. They can’t do anything. They cannot stop us from expressing our opinions.”

Another demonstrator, surnamed Lo, said the high turnout is a clear message to the government that they cannot continue to pretend that the anti-extradition movement is backed only by a small minority of violent demonstrators.

“I hope this peaceful rally will give the government a hint that this is actually the voice of the people… I think millions of us would like to let the government know it is really a disaster for Hong Kong at the moment, so they have to come out and explain to us what they would like to do next”, she said.

The demonstrators were battered by torrential rain for much of the afternoon, but a Mr Law who came out from Diamond Hill said this just goes to show people are determined to stand up and be counted.

“They really want to get a response from the government”, he said. “I think for even this rainy day, so many people come here… they don’t care about the weather, whether they get wet or not, they just want to get something from the government”, he added.

One man who was dressed all in black, identifying himself as a frontline protester, showed up in Victoria Park to give his thanks to the peaceful demonstrators.

He held up a placard that read: “Even if you moderates don’t always agree with what we do, you still support us…it’s now our turn to stay peaceful and march with you for one day. Thank you for having our backs.”

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