Stronger police barriers, heavy rain, covid ads don’t dampen NZ protest

Anti-mandate protesters perform a haka on Parliament grounds
An anti-mandate protester points an umbrella at police as others perform a haka on Parliament grounds today. Image: RNZ video screenshot APR

RNZ News

Police say a protester who needed medical attention within New Zealand’s Parliament grounds last night had to wait for ambulance staff to get through the roads blocked by vehicles.

The protest against covid-19 protection measures has continued through its fifth day with police saying new tents and marquees had been erected while police have strengthened protective barriers.

There are now three barriers between protesters and police in some places on Parliament grounds. This morning concrete blocks were placed before the orange and white plastic barriers.

A Ministry of Health statement said daily covid-19 cases in the community had reached a new high, up slightly to 454 today.

The new cases were in Northland (12), Auckland (294), Waikato (72), Bay of Plenty (23), Lakes (8), Hawke’s Bay (7), MidCentral (5), Taranaki (1), Wellington (5), Hutt Valley (12), Wairarapa (2) and Southern (13).

There are 27 people in hospital with the coronavirus, although none are in ICU.

There were just eight cases reported at the border today, with travellers from India (3), Australia (1), Saudi Arabia (1), United Arab Emirates (1) and the United Kingdom (1).

There was a record 446 cases in the community reported yesterday with 32 cases in MIQ.

Ambulance for protester blocked on road
In a statement, Superintendent Scott Fraser said police remained at Parliament grounds overnight to monitor the activity of protesters.

Earlier in the evening, a protester within the grounds needed medical attention, but this was delayed because an ambulance was unable to drive directly to him due to the protesters’ vehicles blocking the surrounding roads.

Molesworth Street remains blocked by more than 100 vehicles including large trucks, campervans and cars.

Fraser said ambulance staff had to walk “some distance” to get to the man, who was waiting with officers.

‘Empathy and professionalism’
“Despite the very difficult environment, our staff, and our Wellington Free Ambulance colleagues, acted with empathy and professionalism, ensuring this man got the medical treatment he needed.”

Fraser said there was one arrest overnight for a breach of bail conditions, but there had been no arrests this morning.

A deluge from Cyclone Dovi has drenched anti-mandate protesters.

MetService issued a heavy rain warning for Wellington which will be in place until 3pm Sunday and strong winds were forecast in the capital today.

More people joined the crowd today in spite of the rain, taking numbers up to about 1000.

Now under a sea of tents and umbrellas, the Parliament lawn is beginning to resemble a monsoon-sodden marketplace.

A battle of the music speakers started up at Parliament this evening as Speaker Trevor Mallard played the likes of Barry Manilow and the Macarena through speakers inside Parliament buildings. He has also been playing covid-19 vaccination advertisements.

Mallard said the 15-minute loop of music and covid-19 ads would be on repeat and possibly play through the night.

Most of the protesters greeted the tunes with boos and played back We’re Not Going to Take It by Twisted Sister on their own speakers.

Use of haka criticised
The New Zealand Herald reports that protesters had performed Ka Mate — New Zealand’s most famous haka — in spite of requests from the Ngāti Toa iwi for anti-vaxxer protesters to stay away from it.

Ngāti Toa has condemned the use of their haka at anti-vaccination protests.

“As the descendants of Te Rauparaha, we insist that protesters stop using our taonga immediately,” one of the iwi’s leaders, Dr Taku Parai, said.

“We do not support their position and we do not want our tupuna or our iwi associated with their messages.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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