A sea of Hong Kong protesters marched through the dense city center in the pouring rain on Sunday, defying a police ban, in a vivid display of the movement’s continuing strength after more than two months of demonstrations, days of ugly violence and increasingly vehement warnings from the Chinese government.
People began assembling in the early afternoon in Victoria Park, the starting point of huge peaceful marches in June that were joined by hundreds of thousands of protesters. The police approved the Sunday rally but objected to plans to march to the Central district, citing clashes that had occurred after previous events. But protesters marched anyway.
By midafternoon, the park had filled with tens of thousands of people, and the demonstrators began to spill into nearby roads. Protesters holding signs jammed a multilane main road in the Causeway Bay shopping district, stopping traffic and forcing trams to slow to a crawl. The crowd inched toward the park amid heavy rain, shouting, “People of Hong Kong, keep fighting.”
Organizers estimated at least 1.7 million people had turned out — nearly one in four of the total population of more than seven million — making it the second- largest march of the movement, after a protest by nearly two million on June 16.
The Hong Kong police released a far lower crowd estimate, saying there were 128,000 protesters in Victoria Park during the peak period.
But when the march reached the government headquarters in the Admiralty district, the line of people behind stretched nearly two miles, with large crowds still waiting to leave the park.
“I came here for the future of Hong Kong and the next generation of Hong Kong. The government has not responded to our demands,” said Amy Bau, 41, a sign language teacher. “I have come out to march many times, and I will keep coming out if the government continues to not answer us.”
Joyce Man, a 26-year-old clerk, said she had joined despite her worries about the military being called upon to quell protests.
“I still think my showing up is my responsibility,” she said. “The more people in the street today, the safer Hong Kong people are. There’s strength when people unite.”
Roads and sidewalks across Hong Kong Island were filled with people on the march or trying to make their way to the start. Many subway trains skipped stops near the start, citing the large crowds, and traffic was snarled across many neighborhoods.
The march was peaceful throughout the day, following several days of relative quiet and no use of tear gas by the police over the weekend.
Lawrence and Season Lee were marching on a highway with their 3-year-old daughter, who tottered along in pink galoshes. Mr. Lee said he knew that violence was always a possibility with the protests, but he felt Sunday’s march was too important to miss.
“We can’t take it anymore,” he said. “The government hasn’t given any response.”
It was especially important, the Lees said, that their daughter come along to see what was happening.
“We tell her we are all doing this for your future,” Mrs. Lee said.
When the march forced Chan Hok-man, a 31-year-old bus driver, to stop, he changed the digital display at the front of his bus to read “Merry Christmas.” It was a small way, he said, to show his support.
Sunday’s march shows the movement is still strong, he said.
“Just look around!” he said. “You see these people, and you can see what they are saying. What do you think?”
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Source: New York Times