One hundred and twenty protesters have been arrested for refusing to leave the grounds of New Zealand’s Parliament after being trespassed today
Police say it is disappointing that despite the grounds being officially closed to the public earlier today, a number of protesters are refusing repeated requests to leave the precinct.
“We continue to acknowledge people’s rights to protest, however those who behave unlawfully will face arrest,” a statement said.
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Some protesters have responded with abuse, haka and hurling objects at officers.
The Speaker authorised the closure of the Parliamentary precinct, if the police deemed it necessary to clear the lawn.
Health and safety paramount, say police
At a media briefing this afternoon, Wellington District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell said the health and safety of police staff and the public was paramount.
Superintendent Parnell said two police officers who had been assaulted in today’s confrontation with anti-mandate protesters were now recovering.
Police had twice deployed OC spray after officers were pulled into the crowd. He said they were not seriously injured and such behaviour was unacceptable.
Superintendent Parnell said that earlier today police saw some weapons such as placards and sticks, as well as a knuckle duster which signalled the sentiment of some of the occupiers.
He said the presence of children was a significant risk factor and that some protesters had placed children in front of adults.
He said police could not control that but could control how they dealt with the children.
“There has never been an occupation of this scale, it’s unprecedented and there has to be a measured approach,” he said.
‘Move on’, Ardern tells protesters
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today told anti-vaccine mandate protesters outside Parliament to ‘move on’.
She spoke after visiting a covid-19 vaccination centre in Albany, Auckland.
Ardern said it was ultimately an operational matter for police about handling the protest.
“Obviously every New Zealander has a right to protest, but there are also rules around what is able to happen on Parliament’s forecourt and of course we would expect that people have behaviours that don’t disrupt the ability of others to go on with their lives as well,” she said.
Ardern said she thought the majority of New Zealanders shared a similar sentiment, to keep one another safe and live their lives and do as much as they could do to ensure they could continue to live their lives as they did before the pandemic.
The Ministry of Health reported 306 new community cases of covid-19 in New Zealand today — a new record high — with 216 cases in Auckland alone.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.