The Hong Kong police fired volley after volley of tear gas shells to break up thousands of anti-government protesters, most dressed in black and wearing face masks, in Victoria Park, a traditional venue for rallies and vigils, and surrounding streets.
It was an early, feverish response to nip in the bud a rally billed as an 'emergency call' for autonomy for the former British colony that was promised its freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The fast-moving crowds headed to the park through the Causeway Bay shopping district, some pulling up metal fencing and using a football goal to build barricades, their actions masked by others holding umbrellas. Activists threw at least one petrol bomb.
Many sang the British and U.S. national anthems, waving multi-national flags and a few calling for independence, a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing who have vowed to 'crush the bones' of anyone pursuing such a move.
Police using loud-hailers warned them to disperse, saying they would be prosecuted for holding an illegal assembly on the 22nd straight weekend of protest.
The protesters took off in all directions, many throwing bricks as they charged towards Central, building makeshift barricades on the way.
Their route was taking them through the Wan Chai bar district where many rugby fans were gathered in bars pouring out on to the streets for the World Cup final in Japan.
Police fired more tear gas near police headquarters on Hennessy Road, the main artery to Central.
Protesters have taken to the streets for five months of sometimes violent unrest, angry at perceived Chinese meddling with Hong Kong's freedoms, including its legal system. China denies the charge.