60 arrests made as NZ police say some Parliament protesters have weapons

Anti-covid public health protesters clash with NZ police
Anti-covid public health protesters clash with police today at the Parliament grounds occupation camp in Wellington. Image: RNZ

RNZ News

Police have made 60 arrests today as part of a pre-planned operation to remove anti-covid public health protesters from New Zealand’s Parliament grounds.

Police have been descending on Parliament from early this morning on day 23 of the occupation and have also begun towing larger vehicles, including campervans and trucks.

They say they have gained significant ground this morning across the occupation.

Police have asked the public and commuters to avoid the area near Parliament and say they will continue to help those who want to leave the grounds to do so safely.

Hill Street is closed, and many surrounding streets to the protest have been blocked.

Protesters have reacted by throwing cones at police.

Police staff in and around the protest area have sighted protesters in possession of various weapons. These include homemade plywood shields and pitchforks.

One man told RNZ he wanted to move his car because it was all he owned.

There were reports of forklifts on the move, and police were also taking down more tents.

36 arrests confirmed
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster confirmed at a media briefing today that 36 arrests had been made so far in the operation, and 15 vehicles had been towed. They had been seized and would not be returned for now.

Police also reported in a police alert that 60 people had been arrested.

Three police officers were injured; two with abrasions and one with paint thrown in the face. They had been treated at the scene and were back in action, Commissioner Coster said.

He said the changing mix of the crowd on the protest site had been key for the police change in tactics.

As people who were there from the beginning left, Commissioner Coster said people more focused on confrontation moved in.

“We need to return order to this part of Wellington, and that means removing tents and other material,” the commissioner said.

Commissioner Coster said he was happy with how police had reacted.

“We have seen tactics today including the deployment of fire extinguishers at police lines and the throwing of paint,” as well as weapons and shields.

The operation had been in the planning for several days, Commissioner Coster said.

‘Nothing acceptable’ about the protest
There were hundreds of staff in addition to those in the Wellington district involved, he said.

“Nothing about this protest has been acceptable.”

One of the RNZ reporters on the scene said they were being abused by protesters and told to leave.

Protesters have repeatedly been reminded that Parliament grounds are closed, and that remaining there means they are trespassing.

The Kīngitanga is calling for a peaceful resolution to the occupation at Parliament and other sites across the country.

In a statement, a spokesperson said the Kīngitanga had not given its support to any occupation and claims to the contrary were untrue.

They said Kiingi Tuheitia had been a strong advocate for the covid public health response, while acknowledging the impact on people and their families.

The Kīngitanga said its priority was to get through omicron and start preparing for a life after covid.

The Kīngitanga said it was calling for a peaceful resolution to the occupation at Parliament and other protest sites across the country.

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

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