Thousands of Thai protesters gathered on Thursday in defiance of a sweeping crackdown after authorities moved to crush months of pro-democracy demonstrations by imposing emergency powers and rounding up leading activists.

Protesters chanted “Prayut get out!” and “Free our friends!” as they confronted police at Ratchaprasong, a busy junction in central Bangkok, despite a new decree that bans gatherings of more than four people — aimed at quelling student-led demonstrations.

The government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former army chief who initially took power in a 2014 coup, has been the target of the protesters, but they have also taken aim at Thailand’s unassailable monarchy.

“You push us into the corner like a dog,” one of the few prominent activist leaders not in custody, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, told the crowd on Thursday.

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