Forty-five people were arrested in clashes as Hong Kong police continued a citywide effort to clear Occupy Central protesters and their makeshift barricades from city streets. It was the most violent encounter between police and demonstrators since the first weekend of the protests late last month.

The arrestees included 37 men and eight women. They were detained for unlawful assembly and obstructing police officers in the area around Lung Wo Road in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong, a central protest base, according to CNN. Police said they cleared the protesters out of concern for the safety of the public and of the protesters themselves, as well as to make way for traffic.

A group of protesters barricaded a crucial road tunnel near government headquarters on Tuesday with bricks, metal fencing and manhole covers. AFP reported that “hundreds” of police responded to clear out protesters and their barricades. Police used pepper spray against the marchers, who fought off the chemicals with umbrellas turned inside out, a method that has come to symbolize the Occupy Central movement.

Tsui Wai-Hung, a police spokesman, said no protesters were injured on Wednesday morning, but a local report showed a group of police kicking a protester on the ground after separating him from the crowd. The spokesman said four officers were hurt. One officer dislocated his shoulder in the clashes and another had a cut near his eye from an umbrella used by the protesters.

An early morning report from the South China Morning Post said protesters had re-occupied the road as dawn came over the city. Some 1,000 protesters are staged there, while another 50 are camped out in Mong Kok, where an anti-Occupy group clashed with protesters two weeks ago.

Protesters want the Chinese government to drop plans to screen candidates in the 2017 election for chief executive, the top government post in the city. They are demanding full democracy, but Beijing refuses to budge. The protesters also want Hong Kong's chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, to step down. Leung has refused and said earlier this week that there was “almost zero chance” that the Chinese leadership would give in to the protesters’ demands.