Protesters and Hong Kong riot police squared off again Friday hours after police cleared the pro-democracy activists from their staging area near the city's financial district. After protesters returned, police used pepper spray and batons to fend off the large crowd gathered in Mong Kok, with several protesters being knocked to the ground. 

One protester was bleeding from his forehead as he was taken to a police van, according to the Associated Press. The standoff occurred hours after police removed tents, canopies and barricades in Mong Kok, one of the pro-democracy protest zones. The protests have blocked traffic in key roads and streets in three business districts since Sept. 26.  

The Friday raid involving about 800 police officers was part of a “ploy to provoke the students to abandon talks” and raised “strong doubts about the government’s sincerity to engage in dialogue,” Occupy Central, a coalition of protest groups, said in a statement on Friday afternoon, according to the Telegraph.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has refused to step down or meet other demands from the protesters, who want free elections in 2017 to replace him. Beijing wants to screen candidates ahead of the election. A front-page editorial this week in the party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, said the protests were “doomed to fail" and Global Times, a Beijing newspaper that mirrors the government's stance, said the protest movement would “not stamp its name in history but only leave a stink that lasts 10,000 years,” according to the Economist. 

Leung said Thursday that officials had been negotiating with student leaders via mediators and talks between both sides could be held as early as next week. Previous meetings between the government and protesters were canceled or delayed.

A video showing police officers beating an unarmed protester earlier this week drew international outrage. Police said seven officers had been suspended pending an investigation.