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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN International: Police Move Into Hong Kong Legislative Council Building. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired July 1, 2019 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
ANNA COREN, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN. I am Anna Coren live from Hong Kong. We are getting reports that police are finally moving in to Hong Kong's Legislative Council building to clear the area. They issued a statement over an hour ago saying they were going to move on protesters.
And now we are seeing a great deal of movement here at Tamar Park. People are starting to move from where we are. But we understand that where our reporters are based inside the building that police are moving in.
OK, I can now see pictures of these riot police. They have their shields. They have their helmets. They are in a line. We are trying to work out exactly where they are. I think they're over on this side of the building. Yes. And they are prepared. They are prepared. They are prepared to clear out these protesters.
I can hear a lot of people here in Tamar Park. They are running. They are getting out of here. And as you can see, there are hundreds, hundreds of police. We have been waiting for this moment, waiting for this moment. It is now more than ten hours since those protesters started ramming the doors at the Legislative Council building.
It took them hours to finally break in to smash down those glass doors and those glass windows. As soon as they finally got in, they have made their way in to the chamber. They have vandalized. They have defaced public property. And all the time police were nowhere to be seen.
Well finally, finally the police are here. They are in their riot gear. They are ready to clear out, clear out the protesters, the thousands of protesters who are gathered not just outside the Legislative Council building but also inside the chamber.
As soon as we get communications with our reporters down there, we will find out what the atmosphere is, whether these protesters are finally prepared to leave the building peacefully. And Nic Robertson, he is outside the Legislative Council building. Nic, talk to me. What are you seeing? What is happening?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anna, the atmosphere down here is absolutely electric. I'm seeing a few people wondering away but the crowd here knows that something is about to happen. They're aware that the police are on the move. It's not clear what they're going to do. Some people as I say were walking away on the pathway. They're drifting away.
But there's also a hardcore of people in there who have been chanting very definably. I think what we're going to see here if the police come through here is a huge, massive fast exit of people running to get away.
However, I think we're also going to see some people trying to stand their ground, wait here and take whatever is being directed. But initially it leading themselves away from the back of the protest where I'm standing here getting themselves out of this area.
But it's anyways guess as to exactly what's going to happen. As I say, this is an absolutely electric atmosphere as people decide in this moment do they stand and face the police or do they pullback now.
COREN: Nic, they are moving. The police are moving. There are hundreds of police with riot gear and they are moving towards the Legislative Council building. We are also looking at scenes inside the chamber. There looks like there is pandemonium inside the chamber.
It's hard to workout what exactly is going on inside the chamber, whether or not those protesters are going to be leaving. They do. They look like they are walking outside. They are finally streaming outside the exit.
And even here at Tamar Park there are hundreds of people whoa re running away. Matt Rivers, you are inside the chamber, Matt what is going on? Are people leaving?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, it does look like that. They just started walking out, Anna, it does appear that way. There was a bit of a chaotic situation where everyone in here ran to an exit on the other side of the room and then they all came back and now they went out the main exit. And things are a little bit calmer at the moment.
There was a bit of a panic scene. I think it was a panicked exit is a good way to put it. And now they're walking out of the room here. Why don't you come this way, Justin. So we're walking out. Obviously there's a big press contingent here as well.
So now we're just going to follow these protesters out as they make their way out. We're going to hope our live signal holds up OK. So right now you can see I mean we're on the second floor here of the--
COREN: We can hear you. We can hear you and we can see you. RIVERS: Yes. Yes, sorry, the (inaudible).
COREN: We can see Matt Rivers there, he has just left the chamber.
RIVERS: Great. OK, so we are now going down the second floor relatively calm exit so far. You can see there's some graffiti on the walls. You can see a lot of the damage as we walk out. The place looked pretty trashed, I'll be honest. You had hundreds of protesters come in.
Hundreds of protesters that made their way in and now they do seem to be ready to go. And so it's calm for now. It is calm for now. Justin, can you point down there? So what we see now, we're walking down the second escalator here inside the building making our way down eventually to the first floor.
The goal is going to be to get the protesters I guess, they want to get themselves out of here safely. And it does appear relatively calm at the moment. At the bottom of the stairs, I can see a lot of the damage that was caused earlier in the day, all the broken glass, all the debris that was all part of what were they doing earlier today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gas, gas.
RIVERS: Oh, there's gas. Oh, guys there's gas, we need to--
COREN: OK. Matt, while we try and reestablish connection, I just want our cameraman Brad to show the hundreds of people, thousands of people who are streaming outside of Tamar Park here. They have seen the pictures. They have seen the pictures of the hundreds of riot police on the other side of the Legislative Council building.
They are now all clearing out. They are finally leaving Tamar Park. They are clearing out. And as we can see, the police have put up the signs warning tear gas, warning tear smoke. Now we don't know if they are going to fire tear gas unless the protesters charge at them or whether they are going to disperse that tar gas.
But as you can see, there are people racing through the garden, humping over hedges. They are getting out of here. They know exactly what is about to take place. There are hundreds, hundreds of police on the other side of the Legislative Council building. We're moving in to our position, moving.
And there we go. Police are throwing or firing tear gas. Police are moving. Police are moving ahead. They have fired tear gas. They warned protesters they were going to fire tear gas, and they are now moving towards us. They are now moving towards us to our location. Nic Robertson, explain the scene where you are.
ROBERTSON: Oh, we are (inaudible), gas mask on. I have my gas mask on at the moment, (inaudible) through the area. The crowds (inaudible) moving away from the LEGCO building. Anna, maybe (inaudible) get rid of this gas mask (inaudible) a little more clearly.
ROBERTSON: But what has happened down there--
COREN: Because we can barely understand you. You are wearing -- OK.
ROBERTSON: I have taken the gas mask off, hopefully you can hear, you can understand me now, Anna. The crowd in that area outside of the LEGCO building in that basement, the large area, and they have literally walked away from there. They put their hands in the air like this and streamed out of the area.
There was huge amount of tear gas coming in to the area, bad enough to put on a gas mask as you could tell. And now the last of the protesters seem to be coming out of the building at the moment.
The area is cleared and I'm looking over to my left to see what appears to be a gathering of police and protesters, hard to make out at this distance precisely who is who. But the gathered crowds here outside of LEGCO building literally walked away with their hands in the air, the sign of walking away peacefully, of surrender if you like.
They put their hands in the air and walked away because they were aware the police were coming. There were moments of indecision. I could see it in people's faces.
Young teenagers, girlfriends, boyfriends standing next to each other holding hands looking at each other wondering what to do. And I'm looking in the distance now and I can see a massive amount of tear gas being fried.
COREN: OK. Yes, Nic I just heard that. I just heard that they're firing tear gas. They are getting closer to where we are. And we are actually seeing tear gas. There is tear gas coming across Tamar Park. This has been a place where there have been peaceful protests peaceful protests in Tamar Park.
And now there are hundreds, thousands of people racing across. If you can show also our position Brad, now stay on these pictures. Stay on these pictures. There is pandemonium happening on the streets outside Hong Kong's legislative Council building.
Police have waited more than ten hour, ten hours to finally act, finally act since those protesters began storming that building. Our Matt Rivers, he is there with the protesters. Matt, talk to us.
RIVERS: So there's a lot of tear gas, Anna. I'm not going to be able to talk to you very much. I just want to be able to show you what we see right now. So right on the other side of these protesters, there's a line of police over that way, right over there.
That's where a lot of tear gas was just fired. That's why I sound a little bit out of breath, because we had to run out of the area quite quickly with our masks on. We can see over this way, (inaudible). We want to be able to show you over there. That's going to be an advancing police line right there.
COREN: OK, we have lost communications with Matt. No, he's back.
RIVERS: Coming in and trying to get everyone to clear out. So, those are the police that are starting to clear us all out. There was tear gas fired. It was quite intense--
COREN: All right, I'm just going to interrupt you and let everybody know that there are police coming behind us. You can see behind there they have fired tear gas off in the distance. And now, Brad, and if they can take our picture there are police who are coming in behind us. They are coming in behind us here at Tamar Park.
I'm going to get out of the way. But there are -- these are -- yes here are the police. The police are coming. The police are coming with their shields. I hope that we don't have to move from our live location. At this stage, at this stage the police in their riot gear, they are there in Tamar Park. Brad, are you able to get this?
And they are banging on their shields. And there is not a protester to be seen. There is not a protester to be seen. They have all dispersed from Tamar Park. They are heading towards central. Everybody has cleared out.
Police look like they are searching the area for any other protesters. But they have their shields. They have their batons. They have their helmets and their gas masks. But I can tell you now that all the protesters have now left Tamar Park. There were thousands. Now they're walking.
As you can see, if you can look at our picture, here they are. They're coming towards us, going through the bushes. They are banging on their shields. They are trying to push all the protesters out of the park. And hopefully we can continue to stay here and broadcast these pictures to you live. We can continue our broadcast.
At this stage, the police are running. They are running. And these are the riot police. They've got this. These are the riot police. They are chasing down the protesters. OK, Nic Robertson? Nic, if you can hear me, explain to me what you can see--
ROBERTSON: It's a very fluid situation. Yes. It's a very fluid situation. The police officers are taking control of the area again. We've seen them flooding the zone here. There's a lot of officers. Some have grange lights on the backs on their helmets, some blue lights, some green lights, some red lights. They're moving through this area.
That's what you're seeing in front of the camera now, the police officers taking back control of this area. They're decided to move them. What we saw, what we witnessed happen here was hundreds, thousands of protesters outside the Legislative Council building. They fled the area where they knew the police were coming. A lot of tear gas was fired in the air, we had to out our gas masks on. But the protesters walked away from the area with their hands held above their heads, surrender, peace, they walked away. And now you have the police here organizing themselves to take control again of this area.
They've held back all day. They held back from direct confrontation. And now they're moving in. And from what we've witnessed here so far, the police have not had a head to head conformation with protesters so far.
But now what I'm going to ask Christian to do and this will be tricky is spin the camera around here, spin the camera around and we're going to look at how the police now are organizing themselves sort of securing the area around the Legislative Council building.
So this is now a police (inaudible), a (inaudible) of men being put in place to secure the building, to stop protesters coming back in. At the moment I don't see any protesters trying to rush the police lines.
I don't see any protesters from my vantage point at the moment a lot of journalists wearing florescent jackets covering what the police are doing. But I do not see nay protesters at all. This operation by the police has been swift. It appears to have been decisive.
It appears to have been from our vantage point without injury, without confrontation. There certainly was a lot of tear gas fired. And the reason I say that this was coordinated and clearly planned by the police, there are different units of police.
Some as I say with red lights on the backs of their helmet, some with orange and the ones we're looking at down here, some have blue lights on the back of their helmets, some green and some other just regular officers.
We don't know what the color of the lights signify but to the police this has been the formations that they've been in, that they've taken control of this area. So this where we were 10 or 15 minutes ago wondering what would happen; now we see what has happened.
Now the police have taken control over this area. Where have the protesters gone? For now, they're scattered. Is there a confrontation? Not as far as we can see. This is going to develop further tonight, Anna.
COREN: It is quite extraordinary, Nic, considering what could have played not. Not to suggest that this is over by any stretch of the imagination. The police where we are positioned 50 meters away and they are heading towards central in a line. And there are hundreds of them.
There are hundreds of them also situated outside the chief executive's office. And they are in a line. We understand that they may be facing off with protesters. We don't have a camera angle on that at this stage. From where I'm standing from, my vantage point, I cannot see anymore protesters. It would seem like they have all left Tamar Park.
I'd be interested know if we can check with our Matt Rivers, whether we have communications with Matt Rivers. I'm trying to find out from our team. We don't have comms with Matt Rivers at this stage. But we do have Hong Kong's bureau chief Roger Clark. Roger, where are you?
ROGER CLARK, CNN HONG KONG BUREAU CHIEF: There's mostly (inaudible).
[12:20:00] COREN: Roger, can you hear me?
CLARK: Yes, I can. Yes. Hello.
COREN: OK. Roger, describe to us what you're seeing and where you are positioned.
CLARK: OK. Well, what we're seeing -- what we're seeing at the moment is the police are advancing very quickly forward and they're firing the some tear gas. So guys, will need to back (ph). The police have got their riot shields and their batons and they're pushing crowd back more (inaudible).
The main fly over through Harcourt Road has got dozens of police vehicles out (ph) there. At least those riot shields (inaudible) from going over there. Meanwhile, the police are advancing towards us -- we're probably 50 feet away from police officers now with their riot shields and their batons.
And they pushed the crowd back a long, long way and they're now starting to take control of this area, one of two things (inaudible) police officers and they're using their shields to deflect those missiles that are being thrown at officers. Still a huge, huge -- numerous protestors who are -- who are out there at the moment.
My colleague Matt Rivers and myself and others were just retreating quite a way back because we expect the police will fire some more tear gas and already we (ph) fired some tear gas, we all got a whiff of it.
Reportedly (ph) before we managed to get our gas mask on. So the police now are just holding their (ph) line as more missiles are thrown at them. We all left the main counsels chamber about 20 minutes ago and it was orderly departure.
And once we got outside the building, the police were clearly moving lots of people back on towards a main dual carriage way well outside the LegCo building. The geographical (inaudible) the completely opposite end of the LegCo building from where (inaudible).
So the police are still trying to operate on at least two fronts at the moment as they push people back for a huge number of police officers. And I have to say, this is the first time in hours that I've seen the police. This is only the first time that I've seen the police today do anything.
Up until now they have been a completely impotent police force in these circumstances, completely impotent. For now they are starting to know their strength and they're pushing people back. Anna. COREN: I guess that the question though, Roger, is has this dispersed all -- all the protestors or are we now seeing stand offs. We've just had hundreds of right police just walk past us and they are still going back to the Legislative Council building.
Obviously there are protestors still in front of the building, still -- still within that vicinity who they need to move on.
CLARK: Yes, well there's been a lot of protestors very close to the Legislative Council building. But the police are pushing people further and further back. And they are taking control slowly, the situation.
They've also got some barricades to hold (ph) down as well because the protestors have protected themselves pretty well. They've built barricades all around this area. So that's going to (inaudible). But for the time being the police are probably 20 yards away from where we are now.
Probably 150 police officers in their particular unit, all with riot shields. Some with full riot shields, some with more riot shield but they've all got their riot helmets on and they've got their large batons and clearly some (inaudible) equipped with tear gas.
But now I see more police officers in the riot here moving across the Harcourt Road and they look to (inaudible) now. So more and more officers are arriving at the scene and the police officers who were putting (inaudible) recently have now stopped and are holding back the (inaudible) while more officers come forward to replenish those numbers.
And if they do do a charge (ph) -- if they do a charge along this main dual carriage way where there are literally thousands of protectors, then that is going to be quite something because there are lots and lots of people who are determined to hold the line against the new police charges.
[12:25:00] But everyone is wearing hard hats and gas masks and -- yes, the situation though has calmed down a little bit but the police move more and more officers into position. But you can't help thinking that it's not going to be long now before the police try and take even more ground then they've already taken, Anna.
COREN: Roger, we're looking at officers with -- with guns. I don't know if that's a tear gas gun that fires tear gas canisters or whether that is what fires rubber bullets. Our Sherisse Pham, she is over with the protestors on the other side of the Legislative Council building from where I am standing. Sherisse, what's going on where you are?
SHERISSE PHAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here on Harcourt Road where a lot of the protestors have moved west along this road, trying to get away from the tear gas that was deployed a little bit closer to where you are.
I'm just going to step out of the shot now because what we're seeing just down the road is we're seeing police gathering. They have moved forward maybe 100 feet and stopped. We're also seeing (inaudible), if you can maybe pan over to the Hong Kong government headquarters, we see them coming out in a line now.
They have been coming out for the last two or three minutes. You can see them all dressed in -- in riot gear there. The line has just stopped, of course. But this is -- seems to be the area where police are gathering.
And what we can say is that protestors are sort of trying to act like a game of telephone. So we've got protestors looking over this fly over, telling other protestors down the way where police are and trying to tell them -- tell the protestors where to walk to try and be safe.
So we have protestors up here on a barricade saying that all they want to do is get them out into a safe zone, get them out of the area where police have been deploying tear gas and moving them more towards central, Anna.
And -- and again, now we're seeing another line of police coming out of the Hong Kong government headquarters. And again, the line of police down the road gathering. We're waiting to see what will happen next, will they move in on this crowd, will they come forward.
From our vantage point I can't see what they're holding. I can't see if they are holding guns. It does look like everyone is dressed in riot gear, however, Anna.
COREN: Yes. No, we -- we are looking at similar pictures Sherisse. It's what's going out on -- on CNN air. We can see that there are police coming out of the Legislative Council building. They have been inside that Legislative Council building, perhaps clearing out all the rooms to make sure all the protestors have gone.
But it now would appear that this standoff is going to be happening on that road, on Harcourt Road. That -- that main thorough fair (ph) through Hong Kong. But there are hundreds -- hundreds and hundreds of riot police who have taken to the streets, using tear gas and we don't know what else they will use to disperse the crowds tonight.
Our Matt Rivers, he is there with the protestors. Matt, bring us up to speed. OK. We seem to be having a few problems. Matt, can you hear me?
RIVERS: Hi Anna. Yes, I'm sorry. I can hear you. I -- I can hear you. Yes Anna, I can hear you. We are -- we are not far from the Legislative Council building at this point. We were -- we were just dealing with some police officers who have blockaded a road near there and they would not let us pass. They usually do when we identify ourselves as press.
And so clearly what police officers are doing here after not being around for this entire day, they are now blocking off areas and kind of pinning everyone in; journalist, protestors, whoever -- whoever happens to be in this area in a very concentrated attempt to force people that were involved or covering a protest to a very specific location.
This does appear to be Harcourt Road. If they continue doing this, this will mirror what we saw on Wednesday June 12th, the last time things got quite violent that's what happened where the tear gas was deployed and they kind of forced everyone into the middle of the road, forced them back a good 500 to 700 meters away from the area that they have been occupying for most of the day. So this is following a game plan that we have seen deployed before ...
[12:30:00] The police are quite intense. They seem to be all in full riot gear, perfectly willing to use tear gas at the moment, and this is the result of this day, and in action frankly for a long time by the Hong Kong government to allow protestors to get as far as they did only to push them back to places that we saw them push them back to weeks ago.
So we're going to watch and see how this unfolds, but this does appear that it could stay violent for sometime as police have made a forceful and swift push to get these protestors out of the legislative council building and out of that immediate area. Anna -
COREN: Yes. Matt, it's absolutely surreal to be watching these pictures, to be here in Hong Kong and think that this is happening in our city, one of the greatest financial hubs in the world, home to 7 million people. 7 million people, of which a quarter of the population took peacefully to the streets two weeks ago trying to push for the government to completely withdraw that controversial extradition bill, for the Chief Executive to listen to the people.
And then today, the scenes of violence, these scenes that we've seen inside the legislative council building with the protestors and now the police - hundreds of police who have been missing in action mind you for more than 10 hours and it has not just gone 12:30 here in Hong Kong.
And finally, they have taken to the streets to disperse the crowds. And certainly, Matt, from where I'm standing here in Tehmam Park (ph), there is not a protestor to be seen. Let's go to now to our Nic Robertson who is monitoring the situation. Nic, what are you seeing?
ROBERTSON: There seems to be a place looking down here at the - outside the legislative council building, the lower level, of course, where the crowds were a little while ago where they smashed in and gained - a lot of them gained access to the building.
Now this is sort of marshalling yard if you will. I just step out of the way here so Christian (ph) can get a better shot, but this is some sort of a marshalling yard now for the police as they decide where to go, where they need to focus their efforts, where the crowds are they want to corral, where the crowds are that they want to push back, so they're being organized here.
We're seeing units of them come in. They move around a little bit. They've got this sort of semicircle of officers all around the doors of the building if you will. A little late in the day, but clearly that's a point that they're securing, and you have these other platoons if you will of police officers lined up waiting to get their instructions, waiting to be told where to go. I'm literally looking at hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of police officers here.
This is - this is, if you will, where they'll get their instructions, where they'll be deployed on somewhere else. If they're going to be needed somewhere else, where are the numbers of police going to be needed at the point of maximum confrontation with the protestors, but for now these officers here who have been flooded onto the streets in the last, what is it now, half an hour literally flooded onto the streets appear to be awaiting their next orders.
So their first objectives have been achieved. They've secured the perimeter of this building, at least at this end. No doubt there are other officers at other parts of the building securing it there. So what are the other objectives? What are the police going to be trying to do? And we're going to watch where they move to understand - to understand what they're final objective is going to be. Will it be a large perimeter around this government building that many people expected them to put in place in the early hours of today to prevent and occurrence that we've witnessed of protestors smashing their way into the building, getting into legislative chamber, spraying graffiti on the walls of the building as they went?
Will the police now position themselves in such a way that this cannot happen in the coming days? But right now it still seems to be a case of finding the protestors, clearing those protestors away. For right now, this area seems to be calm, that the police's objectives here for now seem to be achieved. It's still ongoing elsewhere, Anna.
COREN: Yes, it is still ongoing elsewhere. Where it is happening is on Harcourt Road which is where our Sherisse Pham is. Sherisse, what is going on now between protestors and police?
PHAM: We can see that the - excuse me - the police have gathered on the western side of the Hong Kong government headquarters. You can see them forming a line there. They're fully kitted out in riot gear. From this vantage point, I cannot see if they are carrying guns. We know that police just down the road and around the corner were outfitted with guns that would deploy rubber bullets, Anna, and we are seeing there are very few protestors on the street where these police are marching down.
We are on an overpass elevated above the - where the police standoff is happening right now, and there are a line of protestors who are still lingering here on Harcourt Road yelling insults down at the police. And for the most part, the tear gas that was deployed just a little ways down from us has completely dispersed the crowd. Not more than 15 minutes ago there were probably 1,000, maybe 2,000 protestors that were still left in that area.
They have now all walked down past Harcourt and down the road and they're moving towards central. So this show of force that we're seeing from the police in their riot gear with their shields and their batons, I don't know who the audience is. We're seeing them move now. If they move in the direction that we are seeing them walking, they will be walking towards central and they will be following the direction that the protestors have just walked. So we are -
COREN: So Sherisse, from where you are positioned you can't - you can't see any more protestors?
PHAM: There are very few protestors where I am, Anna. On this overpass on Harcourt they have mostly cleared out, and in front of the legislative council, this massive area just underneath the bridge that is just outside the legislative council building, that is almost all cleared now as well.
They came and they walked west, and they avoided going over the overpass and they turned south down a road. And what we've heard from protestors say is that they're going to gather around the corner and continue heading west towards central, so away from admiralty, away from the main government office here.
And actually you know what I can see in the distance now, too, that this is clearly what Matt was talking about earlier where you have police - hemming police protestors in from all sides, so we see police coming down the other side of us as well. So we've got police on the east and police on the west here, and the protestors are moving south.
COREN: Yes, it would seem there are some police - some lines of police that are following those protestors. Not running after them, but certainly walking in their direction. Sherisse, are you getting a sense that perhaps this is - this is calming down? That perhaps the show of force by the police, the tear gas that it has dispersed the crowds? That those protestors will perhaps now just pack up and go home? Or are you envisioning more confrontations later this evening?
PHAM: My sense right now, Anna, is that the police have been successful in clearing this area. Sanjiv (ph), if I could just get you to pan over here. Bear with us here as we get over to the shot and get in focus. You can see this whole area just 15, 20 minutes ago was completely packed with 1,000, maybe 2,000 protestors.
They have dispersed and they are heading south, but I can't tell you whether or not they're on their way home now, Anna, because they're now out of our - out of our eye sight. Protestors that we talked to before, they were directing them off Harcourt Road. They said that they were going to head towards central.
So a protestor we talked to earlier said the original plan was the clear out the area at midnight. That was about 40 minutes ago, but she said we want to be fluid, and I think that's what we're seeing happen right now. Police clearly waited until after midnight before they displayed the show of force. You can see now in the distance, there are many police vans off in the distance clearing who knows what.
The protesters that are left on this road would number in the tens at this point.
COREN: Yes, and obviously there are also a lot of press. We know that all the cameramen, all the journalists, all the photographers who have been documenting this throughout the day, they are still there as are we. We are still standing here at Tamar Park, police didn't clear us out and they haven't cleared out our reporters.
Our Nic Robertson, he is monitoring the situation near the Legislative Council building, Nic, what's going where you are?
ROBERTSON: Anna, definitely a changed atmosphere, completely changed, but a static situation here now, very static. The police, we can still see a lot of them down there, I'll step out of the way again, but it -- we'll be able to look down there in just a second, Christians (ph) just going to frame up the shot for us, so you can see outside the doors to of the legislative council building there's a semicircle of police sort of protecting their way towards to the building, then behind them other offices lined up, just relaxed right now.
Their shields are down, their helmets are off, they're relaxed. Sort of over in the distance from them you can see several other groups of officers lined up there. Still standing there, they're still holding their riot shields, they still appear to have their helmets on.
So, you've got police that are ready to move on a situation somewhere else where they should get deployed to, they're ready to do that. I'm also looking at police vehicles through the trees as well, I believe, from what I can see from here. But, this seems to be the moment where the police can take a breath, they've executed their plan.
They've cleared the Legislative Council building, they've secured the Legislative Council building, they're clearing the streets around it and now they're going to have to look at where they see the pockets of protesters popping up, fluid, as we were talking about there. If the protesters are going to be fluid, the police will need to be fluid to match them.
The police are out on the streets now, they've taken the -- they've taken a step onto their front foot. They haven't been there all day, so now they're out, they're going -- it seems that they will likely maintain this posture, a full force ready to act posture to ensure that there are not other protestors who can come back.
What sort of perimeter though at the end of that, and we're not there yet, will they leave around this government building? What is the plan there? We don't know, but at the moment what we are witnessing, I think, is the execution of the first step of the police's plan and we're going to see the next few steps as the night progresses, Anna.
COREN: Yeah, well Nic, by the sounds of things, certainly from my vantage point, from Sherisse's vantage point and from your vantage point, there don't seem to be any protesters. It would seem that they have dispersed.
We are getting word, however, that the MTR, the training system here, some of the entrances have been shut. There are reports of that. Now, there were thousands of protestors, Nic, tens of thousands of protesters who have fled this area, fled the area around the Legislative Council building and they need to get home, they need to get out of here.
If those police are going to try and track them down and find them, they will need to jump on trains, on buses, on public transport, that is how people get around in Hong Kong. So, unless the police are going to go and search for these protesters, you would have to assume that they've gotten away.
ROBERTSON: Well, you would also think that the police will probably want to make sure that the protesters don't have an opportunity to corral and hide themselves and get inside the train system, the MTR, or have an opportunity to do further damage down there. So, perhaps the police have asked for those to be closed so that the -- so that protesters can't go and hide there.
The clear message becomes to the protesters then, well you can hang on the streets here if you can't go home, but the police may come, so perhaps this an overall encouragement to encourage protesters, just get going towards home, just start walking, you'll find a station ultimately that's open.
But, we don't know. We don't know the tactics, we don't know the overall objective of -- overall objective of the police, but it does seem that one of the objectives, and we were talking about this before the police moved in, would they try to arrest people.
This doesn't seem to have been an operation at arresting and detaining people. This has been an operation that's been at aimed at moving the crowds on, moving the protestors away, taking control of the government building and defusing and taking the sting out of this violent protest and regaining the upper hand.
So, it doesn't appear at this stage that the police have opted to go for, let's arrest a lot of people so we can put people on trial for the damage that's been done to government property, that doesn't seem to be the route that police are going, this is a crowd control, secure perimeters type event.
COREN: Nic, it's hard to believe that it was almost 11 hours ago that we were talking on air about the protesters who had positioned themselves outside the Legislative Council building, when they had decided they were going to try and storm the building. They started ramming those doors, obviously that took them hours and we have been very critical, I've been very critical of the police for not intervening earlier, but from what we have seen over the last 40, 50 minutes, would you say that the police have handed this well?
ROBERTSON: I would say that they've clearly up -- they've had very clear instructions and at some point, somewhere in the night the police have been given an instruction, take back control. Some of this seems to have been telegraphed in that the police moved in at midnight.
We heard the protesters were talking about evacuating the building at midnight, you even mentioned that on air, if the police were listening, it does seem that there's been -- both sides seem to know midnight was the moment somehow. That seems to have got in the mix here.
So, the police have seemed to act on orders to standby, not engage in confrontation, literally use pepper spray. Those windows, we saw such bruit force being used to break through those windows. These windows, the glass is really thick and the back of the glass is heavy duty plastic, because I've seen protesters trying to cut that with scissors later on today.
Ramming those windows with crates of rocks, using metal rods and barricades to try to break through, but all the police were doing was moving forward and using a little pepper spray and then retreating inside behind the glass.
And yes, they've been criticized for not protecting and securing the building from all this damage, but it does appear that they had an order not to get into violent confrontation with the police and it did switch at midnight. And this tactic does seem to have paid off, in as much as, as far as we know, at this early stage of the night, there have not been heavy casualties.
The crowd that we walked away from outside LegCo building, the Legislative Council building here, when the police swept into the area, was orderly. They walked with their hands in air, they didn't rush, they didn't run, they didn't scream, they didn't shout, they literally walked away.
For a police operation to have succeeded in clearing people away in that manner without confrontation will be regarded by the police chiefs here as something of a success. The last thing that they need after the criticism that they took on the 12th of July and continue to take because the social media and other videos of them beating some of the protesters still exist and still a huge point of contention from that day.
The police will consider it as a success that they don't seem to have triggered those kind of events again. I have to couch this and I have to say, this is early and it's too soon to draw conclusions, but I think that's the picture that's emerging. The police will be happy so far with this phase of how it's gone, but it could go many ways still.
COREN: Of course. Of course. But, it is a stark difference to what we witnessed on the 12 of June, when police were very quick to pull out the tear gas and pull out the guns with rubber bullets and those bean bag bullets. So, this is definitely a different approach by police several weeks later.
Let's now go to our Sherisse Pham, who is monitoring the situation on the other side of where we are standing at the Legislative Council building. Sherisse, what are the police doing where you are? PHAM: The police are hemming in the roads, pretty much blocking off any exit points for any lingering protesters that might still be in this area. The shot we have on right now, you can see a fleet of police vans in the distance, clearing out these roads. We're on Harcourt Road, which is a main thoroughfare here in Hong Kong, in the middle of this international financial hub.
And, of course Anna, we've been here for about six hours and for most of that time this entire area that you can see in the in the distance was completely packed with tens of thousands of protesters. As the night wore on, of course it thinned out, there was a call for protesters to clear the area at about midnight. Most of them were planning on doing that, on leaving.
And then shortly after midnight the police started demonstrating this show of force. So you can see them moving forward now.
We're here on the flyover and this is a barricade that protestors had setup using these steel barricades that they mostly pried off of the sidewalks here in Hong Kong and then outfitting it with umbrellas for protection, to be protected for tear gas, to be protected from pepper spray, and probably to also hide their identities from the police.
But they are just marching up this main thoroughfare because right now it's almost 1 o'clock in the morning which means we're only a few hours away from business as usual on Tuesday again in this major international financial hub, and you can bet the police and the Hong Kong government and most likely also the mainland Chinese government want the city to return to business as usual as soon as possible.
Anna, we may have to move soon to get out of the way of the police that are coming in, coming forward. They're clearly going to be clearing out this road. They will be moving this very heavy metal barricade that is blocking their - that will be blocking their further movement headed towards the central district of Hong Kong, the main financial district of Hong Kong.
We are seeing police moving now on both sides. Police behind us also clearing out the few media that are left, and police also on the sides. You can hear the batons. Anna, we will be wrapping so we can move to a safe location.
COREN: OK, we'll let you go, Sherisse, but certainly there don't look to be any more protestors certainly from Sherisse's vantage point, from our vantage, and also from Nic Robertson's vantage point.
This has been an extraordinary afternoon. We began broadcasting at 2 o'clock this afternoon when the protestors had gathered outside that legislative council building, deciding what action they wanted to take. There was discussion between the protestors as to whether they wanted to be peaceful or whether they wanted to storm the legislative council building.
Well obviously the storming of the building, they were the louder voices, and that is exactly what happened at 2 o'clock this afternoon. Now we're approaching 1 o'clock in the morning. Our Nic Robertson has been following this story with me throughout the day. Nic, this is quite a conclusion to an extraordinary day.
ROBERTSON: It is absolutely if we're at the conclusion, and that begins to be the picture that is emerging, doesn't it? Because even in the areas where protestors have put barricades further distance from this government building, the police that are moving through those areas, we're not seeing large numbers of protestors gathered into any particular place at the moment, and the police that I'm looking at here, some of them are even sitting down, taking the weight off their feet as they wait to figure out what they're going to do next. It's a very relaxed atmosphere looking at the police here as they wait.
I can see in the distance, though, you've still got quite a large number of officers lined up, standing ready to move off if they're called upon to do that, but certainly for the officers down here who's job it appears to be to protect the perimeter outside the legislative council buildings, they seem to be very relaxed.
So this is a hugely different feel to where we were many, many hours ago. So much concern about how we might arrive at this point, how it would arrive at the situation that the police would take back control because that was always the way it was ultimately going to be, but now the questions will begin to be asked. And they'll be asked in earnest probably in the early hours of tomorrow morning when the people of the city begin to wake up and want to get back to their jobs.
What did happen? Why didn't the police take a tougher line? Why didn't they form a perimeter around this building as they're doing now? So a lot more to find out about this, Anna.
[12:55:00] COREN: Yes, that's right, Nic. They could have done this hours ago, but they waited until midnight to turn out in their hundreds and form those lines dressed in their riot gear and move the protestors on, but thankfully this has been peaceful.
Obviously those protestors, they have all now dispersed. They have vanished virtually obviously on public transport, obviously on train systems, the MTR here in Hong Kong, but they are no doubt on their way home. Let's go to our Matt Rivers who was with those protestors inside the legislative council building. Matt, where are you?
RIVERS: Yes Anna, we're on - moving away from the legislative council building, and you can see, you know, there's nothing but journalists here at this point. There's no protestors left, and these police still despite the fact that we're all labeled as press are not slowing down. They are moving very quickly with their shields.
Let's back up. Let's continue to back up, Sanjiv (ph). Let's continue to back up. Lilly (ph), please move out of his way. So they're continuing to back us up without stopping and this was all part or this remains a part of the ongoing police operation that was extremely swift in terms of when they decided to move in - yes, in terms of when they decided to move in and now pushing us very quickly back.
There's a barricade behind you guys here, so let's slow down. Let's slow down. Let's move. Apologies, but we have to move our cameraman out of the way of some debris in the road here. Let's continue to move back. Let's continue to move back to give the police some room.
So basically this is all part, Anna, of what we've seen in terms of an incredibly swift police response after doing nothing for the entire day. They came and when they decided to come into the legislative council area, when they decided to come into the roadway the way they are now, they did not stop for a second. It was very swift. They used tear gar very quickly and effectively I should add, and they moved these protestors out incredibly fast.
For the amount of time that protestors spent out in front of the building today, how fast they were cleared, Anna, shows you the strength of this police operation when they finally decided to move in.
COREN: Yes, absolutely. And by what you are seeing and the police, of course, they are moving you on, moving the media on, but they are wanting to return the streets to normal. It is going to be business as usual in the coming hours as dawn breaks. So obviously police need to get the streets of Hong Kong cleared and ready for business.
RIVERS: Yes, there's no doubt about that. I mean, you know, and I think that's why when you - when you compare it to - you know, I was on this road Wednesday, June 12, the night of. I was in this exact same spot, and at that time there was a line of police roughly in the same place actually. They had moved protestors out that Wednesday afternoon, stopped here, and all the protestors gathered. Thousands of them probably 500 meters down the road from where we were. And the cops allowed them to stay there well into the morning, 6, 7, 8 a.m. to the point where it absolutely impacted morning traffic.
And this time they decided no. This time they decided we're going to let the - we're going to let the protestors spend the entire day outside of the legislative council building, we're going to let them break into the legislative council building, but then when they decided to move in, they moved in incredibly swiftly and with such force and such aggression that the protestors - I mean, it immediately killed their spirit. You could see. They were running. You saw it yourself, Anna, in Tehmam Park (ph) they were running away from the legislative building.
They were running out of this road, and instead of coming down this road away from the legislative council building the way they did on Wednesday, June 12, most of them kind of went south away from the harbor front and they kind of got on trains and they got out of the area as fast as they could whether it was trains, cars. Whatever they could take they got out of the area swiftly. And that was way different than what we saw the last time things got violent, so a very different police response, but still there's going to be a lot of questions about the police tactics today, what took so long for them to respond, and when they did respond they did it with incredible force. You could have probably seen that happen much earlier, so these are the questions that are going to be facing the police department here over the days and weeks to come.
COREN: Yes, absolutely. Matt Rivers, a lot of questions - a lot of questions of the police force. Why didn't they act sooner? Why did they allow for the vandalism that we witnessed to the legislative council building? Why didn't they move in much quicker? All of this will be discussed no doubt in the coming days and weeks.
Well thanks so much for your company. Our coverage of this will continue with my colleague, Amara Walker.
AMARA WALKER, CNN TODAY ANCHOR: All right, Anna Coren, great job out there. Thank you for that. We are following breaking news out of Hong Kong. The European Union