On the second anniversary of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, a look back at its most iconic moments

On Sept. 28, 2014, tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets to protest against Beijing’s decision over how the city’s leader would be elected in 2017. The pro-democracy movement, originally known as “Occupy Central,” disrupted Hong Kong’s busiest districts for over two months and changed the city’s political landscape for ever. Two years on, young faces who grew out of the protests have become elected legislators, a decisive moment for a city that is embracing local identities and even independence from China.

Today is the second anniversary of the start of the Occupy protests. Here’s the key events of the 79-day movement, in photos:

On Sept. 22 2014, thousands of Hong Kong secondary and university students kicked off a weeklong boycott to protest against Beijing’s restrictive proposal for how the city elects its top official, or chief executive. The boycott was a prelude to Occupy Central, a civil disobedience movement proposed by Benny Tai, a legal academic, that had been in the works for months. The movement was slated to start on Oct. 1, China’s National Day.

Students from various universities chant slogans at the Chinese University in Hong Kong September 22, 2014. Thousands of students braved sweltering heat in Hong Kong on Monday to demand greater democracy as they launched a week-long boycott of classes,
Students from various universities chant slogans at the Chinese University in Hong Kong Sept. 22, 2014. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

At the end of the class boycott on Sept. 26, a group of students, including members of the protest group Scholarism, scaled the fence of Civic Square, a space next to the government offices that had previously been open to the public. They occupied the area overnight, and were pepper sprayed and arrested the next morning. Thousands continued to pour into the area in the Admiralty district in support of the students the next day.

Student protesters are kettled by police at the Civic Square, the public area in front of Hong Kong's Central government offices, in Hong Kong, China, 27 September 2014. The students were overcoming police barriers overnight and occupied the area as part of their week-long protest against Beijing's rules for Hong Kong elections. Police reportedly were denying the students access to a bathroom as well as to food or water. EPA/ALEX HOFFORD
Civic Square, the morning after Sep. 27 2014. (European Pressphoto Agency/Alex Hofford)

The protests extended into Sept. 28. That morning, tens of thousands of demonstrators surged the streets of Admiralty, home to the city government’s headquarters and legislature. Riot police clashed with protestors and fired tear gas.

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A protester walks in tear gas fired by riot police on Sept. 28 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)

That only brought out more crowds as the evening went on.

Tens of thousands of protesters block the main street to the financial Central district (at background) outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong September 28, 2014. Riot police advanced on Hong Kong democracy protesters in the early hours of Monday, firing volleys of tear gas that sent some fleeing as others erected barricades to block the security forces in the heart of the former British colony. Earlier, police baton-charged a crowd blocking a key road in the government district in defiance of official warnings that the demonstrations were illegal. Picture taken September 28, 2014.
Tens of thousands of protesters block the main street to the Central financial district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Sept. 28, 2014. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

Parents and grandparents joined students in Central, and the crowds swelled over the next 24 hours:

Protesters hold their mobile phones as they block the main street to the financial Central district, outside the government headquarters, in Hong Kong September 29, 2014.
We all shine on. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Two other major protest sites quickly followed in the Mong Kok and Causeway Bay neighborhoods. Three key downtown areas of Hong Kong were effectively shut down.

A picture of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is hanged on a pole next to some barricades on a main road in the occupied areas at Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. A pro-democracy protest that has blocked main roads in Hong Kong for almost two weeks could drag on for days yet, after talks aimed at resolving a bitter standoff between the city's government and student demonstrators collapsed Thursday. The Chinese words read: "When divided up, see who will be most happy." (AP Photo/Vincent Yu
A picture of Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying at the Occupy site at Causeway Bay. The caption reads: “When we’re divided, see who will be the happiest.” (AP/Vincent Yu)

The umbrella, which was initially used by protesters to defend themselves against tear gas and pepper spray from the police, became a symbol of defiance. The protests also became known as the Umbrella Movement.

Pro-democracy protesters hold umbrellas under heavy rain in a main street near the government headquarters in Hong Kong late Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. The protesters demanded that Hong Kong's top leader meet with them on Tuesday and threatened wider actions if he did not, after he said China would not budge in its decision to limit voting reforms in the Asian financial hub.
More than just a symbol. (AP Photo)

Umbrellas also inspired artwork…

A statue holding a yellow umbrella set up by students stands outside government headquarters in Hong Kong, Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. In an apparent concession to authorities warning pro-democracy protesters to clear Hong Kong's streets by the beginning of the work week, students occupying the area outside city government headquarters agreed Sunday to remove some barricades that have blocked the building's entrance during the weeklong demonstrations. But it was not immediately clear how significant the move was and how much it would defuse the standoff, with many protesters vowing to stay in the area.  (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
The “Umbrella Man” statue was erected during the protests. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

… including this one featuring Chinese president Xi Jinping.

A woman poses with a cardboard cut out of Xi Jinping at the Umbrella Movement protest site in Mong Kok.
A woman poses with a cardboard cutout of Xi Jinping at the Umbrella Movement protest site in Mong Kok. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

Supporters left thousands of messages:

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A girl stands at a former protest site in central Hong Kong. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

While businessmen and women commuted through the empty streets of central Hong Kong:

A man walks along an empty street near the central financial district in Hong Kong September 30, 2014. Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters extended a blockade of Hong Kong streets on Tuesday, stockpiling supplies and erecting makeshift barricades ahead of what some fear may be a push by police to clear the roads before Chinese National Day.   REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR4891T
A lonely road. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

On Oct. 3, gangs of anti-Occupy and pro-Beijing protesters descended on Mong Kok, harassing and physically assaulting supporters of Occupy.

An anti-Occupy Central protester argues with pro-democracy protesters on a main street at Hong Kong's Mongkok shopping district October 3, 2014. Violent scuffles broke out in one of Hong Kong's most famous and congested shopping districts on Friday, as hundreds of supporters of Chinese rule stormed tents and ripped down banners belonging to pro-democracy protesters, forcing many to retreat. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS) - RTR48TIM
An anti-Occupy Central protester argues with pro-democracy protesters on a main street at Hong Kong on Oct. 3, 2014. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

On Oct. 14, police violently cracked down on hundreds of protesters as they attempted to occupy a tunnel near the government headquarters. During the incident, a group of policemen were filmed by television crew kicking and beating a protester in a dark corner. Both the protester, Civic Party member Ken Tsang, and the seven police, were charged one year later.

Many also said that the Umbrella Movement may have been the politest protest ever. Protesters at the Admiralty camp, which included many teenagers or college students, set up tents to stay overnight, wrote signs to apologize for the traffic shutdown, and recycled garbage at the site. There was even a study zone for students, with electricity and wifi.

Pro-democracy protesters sit at a study area along the main street to the financial Central district as they continue blocking areas outside of the government headquarters building in Hong Kong October 16, 2014. Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying sought to defuse tension with pro-democracy protesters on Thursday, saying he hopes the two sides can talk next week, but anger over police violence and continued street scuffles suggest the students are not about to give up. Leung was speaking after more than two weeks of protests that have paralysed parts of the city and grabbed global headlines amid scenes of violent clashes and tear gas rising between some of the world's most valuable office buildings.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS EDUCATION) - RTR4AFRJ
A study area along the main street at the Admiralty camp. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

On Oct. 21, several student protest leaders from the university group the Hong Kong Federation of Students met with government officials for a televised debate for the first time. Nothing came out of the talks.

Pro-democracy protestors watch formal talks between student protest leaders and city officials on a video screen near the government headquarters in Hong Kong October 21, 2014. The panel chosen to pick candidates for Hong Kong's 2017 election could be made "more democratic", the territory's leader said on Tuesday, the first indication of a possible concession to pro-democracy protesters who have blocked city streets for weeks.
Protesters watch the talk at the Admiralty camp. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

On Oct. 23, a large banner reading “I want true universal suffrage” was hung up on Hong Kong’s iconic and heavily symbolic Lion Rock mountain.

A large banner hung by pro-democracy protesters is seen at Lion Rock, overlooking Kowloon in Hong Kong, October 23, 2014. About 200 Hong Kong protesters marched to the home of the city's Beijing-backed leader on Wednesday to push their case for greater democracy a day after talks between student leaders and senior officials failed to break the deadlock. The banner, which has an image of an umbrella that is regarded as a symbol of the Occupy civil disobedience movement, reads: "We want universal suffrage". REUTERS/Tyrone Siu (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR4B9R6
“I want true universal suffrage.” (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

On Nov. 18, court-appointed bailiffs cleared part of the protest camp at Admiralty, after an injunction was granted to a nearby building’s owner by the High Court.

Building employees dismantle a barricade outside Citic Tower in accordance with a court injunction to clear up part of the protest site, outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong November 18, 2014.Hong Kong on Tuesday started to clear part of a protest camp in the heart of the city that has been occupied by pro-democracy demonstrators for nearly two months, leaving most of the main protest site intact. 
Building employees dismantle a barricade outside Citic Tower in accordance with a court injunction to clear up part of the protest site.

On Nov. 26, authorities demolished the Mong Kok camp after similar injunctions were granted to transport companies. Activists clashed with police and attempted to retake the site in the following days.

Pro-democracy protesters fall on the ground as they are chased by riot police at Mong Kok shopping district in Hong Kong early November 29, 2014. Police are clearing one of the largest protest sites that have choked the city for weeks. The streets of Mong Kok have been a key battleground for protesters and mobs intent on disbanding them, and was viewed as the protest site most likely to resist clearance.  REUTERS/Tyrone Siu (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR4FZNS
Protesters fall on the ground as they are chased by riot police in Mong Kok on Nov. 29, 2014. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

On Dec. 3, the three original co-founders of “Occupy Central” held a press conference, announcing their intention to surrender to police and urged students to retreat for their safety, though the protests had by that point long become a decentralized movement.

Occupy Central civil disobedience founder Benny Tai (C), a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, along with co-founders Chan Kin-man (L), a professor of sociology at Chinese University and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, join hands during a news conference on their voluntary surrender to the police in Hong Kong December 2, 2014. The founders of Hong Kong's Occupy Central civil disobedience movement on Tuesday called on pro-democracy activists to pull back from the city's main protest site next to government headquarters and said they will surrender to police.
Occupy Central founders, with Benny Tai in the middle. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

On Dec. 6, student leader Joshua Wong ended his four-day hunger strike. Wong, now 19, and two other student leaders were sentenced to community service last month for their roles in the protests.

Student leader Joshua Wong, who has undergone more than 90 hours on a hunger strike, sits in a wheelchair as he meets journalists outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong December 5, 2014. Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters were weighing their options on Friday, whether to call off more than two months of street demonstrations or change tactics, as one leader suggested a campaign of withholding tax to "block government."
Joshua Wong during the hunger strike. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

On Dec. 11, the main camp at Admiralty was entirely torn down by police. Protesters didn’t resist.

Workers clear barricades at the occupied area outside government headquarters in Hong Kong Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. Hong Kong authorities started clearing barricades Thursday from the pro-democracy protest camp spread across a busy highway as part of a final push to retake streets occupied by activists for two and a half months. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
The beginning of the end, or end of the beginning? (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

On Dec. 15, the last remaining site at Causeway Bay was dismantled by police, marking an end to the 79-day long protests.

A worker removes masking tape left on a  road sign by pro-democracy protesters during a clearance at the last "Occupy" protest site blocking a main road at Causeway Bay shopping district in Hong Kong December 15, 2014. Hong Kong authorities arrested several pro-democracy activists on Monday as they cleared the last of three protest sites, marking the closure of demonstration camps in the city that have blocked streets for more than two months.
A worker removes masking tape left on a road sign by protesters during the clearance at the last Occupy protest site in Causeway Bay. (Reuters/Athit PerawongmethaS)

This week, one student leader, Nathan Law, shared a reflective photo from outside the Civic Square where it all started. This time, though, he’s got a pass to get in—he’s one of Hong Kong’s legislators.

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