Police vehicles move on pro-democracy protesters during clashes outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong Monday. Photo by Fazry Ismail/EPA-EFE
Nov. 18 (UPI) -- A group of Hong Kong protesters broke away Monday in an effort to divert police attention away from Polytechnic University so the demonstrators trapped there can escape.
Escalating violent protests have put Hong Kong's elections, set for next Sunday, in some jeopardy.
"I must say that postponing the election is a difficult decision to make and we would not take this step unless absolutely necessary," Constitutional Affairs Secretary Patrick Nip said.
A group of pro-Democracy protesters were on the street Monday about a half-mile from the university, where activists have been involved in a standoff with police since Thursday. As many as 1,000 protesters are now stuck on the campus.
On the road, protesters were seen pulling bricks from the road so they could lob them at police. Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui said the university is "a total blockage, and we cannot go out."
"I would say that the majority of students here right now, they actually just want to leave and go home," Hui said.
Police stormed the university with tear gas Monday and made some arrests, accusing the protesters of turning the university into a "weapons factory" and a "refuge for extremely violent rioters."
The Red Cross was allowed inside the campus and some protesters who required medical attention were allowed to leave.
Police were spotted carrying assault rifles in another area of Hong Kong. Regional commander of Kowloon West Cheuk Hau-yip told CNN the weapons contain live ammunition.
"We are police officers and we control the level of force," Hau-yip said. "If the weapon is on view it is ready to use."
As for the university protesters, Hau-yip said, "Other than coming out to surrender, I don't see at the moment, there is a viable option for them."
Parents of the students trapped inside Polytechnic University sat down in front of the police blockade that prevents access to the campus. They were holding signs that read, "Save Our Kids."
The use of deadly force has been rare since the Hong Kong protests started in June. One protester was shot last month but survived and another was shot last week.
Also on Monday, the high court in Hong Kong struck down a ban on masks in public, ruling it unconstitutional.