Update as of 5:30 a.m. EST: Police in Hong Kong have now made dozens of arrests, as the operation to clear out the Occupy Central protest camp continues.
Some high-profile local figures, including singer Denise Ho and media magnate Jimmy Lai, are among those who have been taken into custody, according to reports.
The operation has been largely peaceful, and those arrested offered no resistance to police officers. Protesters instead just sat on the ground and refused to obey police instructions to move, and were carried off by officers in many cases.
Update as of 3:30 a.m. EST: Police in Hong Kong have begun arresting protesters who refused to leave the site, even after officers issued at least three final warnings to clear the site. Protesters were being carried away by police into vans one at a time late Thursday afternoon.
Original story below:
HONG KONG -- Hundreds of police officers converged on the main protest site at Occupy Central Thursday, after a court ordered the protesters’ removal. Police forced protesters to show identification as they left the site, raising the prospect of future prosecutions.
Although the center of the protest site was not covered by the court injunction, the police, who have occupied a wide swath of the protest site that is now largely devoid of demonstrators, warned the few remaining protesters that it would be cleared, and those refusing to leave would face arrest claiming the protesters were unlawfully assembled.
Police officers also were involved in a stand-off with a group of sitting protesters who refused to leave, chanting "We want universal suffrage." Most protesters had left the site already, with only a few demonstrators sitting in chairs, awaiting arrest for defying authorities.
Earlier on Thursday, bailiffs had moved in to dismantle barricades. Around 2 p.m. local time (1 a.m. EST), authorities announced over loudspeakers that the area had been cordoned off, and gave protesters a 20-minute deadline to vacate the site or face arrest. Thousands of officers then converged on the roads leading to the site, preventing anyone from leaving or entering.
The clearance was mostly peaceful, with police moving slowly in their lines toward the center of the protest site, adjacent to Hong Kong government headquarters. A lone exit route, opened minutes ago by police, was swamped with tourists and executives who were caught in the cordon.
As police moved forward, their colleagues behind the front line dismantled the shabby tents left behind by protesters, and pushed the detritus of the demonstration to the side of the road.