Protests on the streets of Hong Kong turned violent, on Saturday evening, July 20, as protesters smashed their way into one of the legislative complex buildings, occupying and vandalizing the building for several hours.

Many protesters wore black shirts and yellow hardhats, as they used make-shift battering rams and long, steel scaffolding poles to break through windows. Upon entering the buildings, they made their way to the legislative chamber and sprayed graffiti on the walls.

Riot police arrived on the scene shortly before midnight, local time, using tear gas to disperse much of the crowd.

Demonstrations in Hong Kong have now persisted for more than a month, though they have typically been far less violent. The protests began in response to a controversial China-extradition bill that would expand the Chinese communist government’s ability to capture and extradite criminal suspects from Hong Kong.

Many in Hong Kong have feared that the law could be administered broadly to target anyone whom China’s communist party may view as a political opponent, including democracy activists, journalists and human rights advocates, among others.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has repeatedly tried to assure protesters that the bill would not proceed. However, her promises have largely fallen on deaf ears, at least for tens of thousands of demonstrators who continue to call for Lam to resign.

The sustained protests appear to be a rebuke of the Chinese communist regime that goes well beyond a single piece of proposed legislation. Hong Kong citizens are trying to maintain their hold on independence from the mainland, and many in Hong Kong believe that defeating the China extradition bill will be just one step in a long-term fight to preserve basic freedoms.

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