Police are out in force in New Zealand’s capital Wellington after yesterday’s massive operation to clear the illegal anti-covid public health measures occupation of Parliament grounds.
There were chaotic scenes as protesters scrambled to save what gear they could and some were pepper-sprayed.
People set fire to trees and tents and loud bangs could be heard — possibly gas canisters exploding — as the flames spread, damaging the children’s playground and surrounding trees.
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The fires were put out, allowing police to push protesters onto the streets but tensions simmered for hours.
At the height of the confrontation officers fired sponge bullets and protesters hurled bricks, pieces of of wood, rubbish and traffic cones in running battles on central city streets.
As of late last night, 87 people had been arrested for offences including trespass, wilful damage and possession of restricted weapons.
Question time cancelled
Parliament’s regular question time has been cancelled today and MPs are instead delivering speeches on yesterday’s chaos.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern makes an initial statement, followed by other party leaders.
The House will then adjourn early and return on Tuesday.
As damage to Parliament’s grounds and surrounding streets is assessed, the future of protest in New Zealand — both online and in person — will have to be reconsidered, said Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.
This morning parliamentary services workers were out in gloves beginning the work of dismantling and disposing of piles of debris left strewn across the site when protesters were forced out by police yesterday.
The violent scenes ended a three-week occupation, and left behind couches, clothing, tents and gazebos, barbecues, gas bottles and camping gear, as well as the gaps left when paving stones were torn out and hurled at police and charred damage from fires lit in a final desperate stand.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health reported 23,183 new community cases of covid-19 today, with 503 people in hospital, including seven in intensive care.
In a statement, the ministry said a new death of a New Zealander with covid-19 had been recorded with a person dying in a Bay of Plenty rest home. The person died of an unrelated medical condition while receiving palliative care and had tested positive for the coronavirus.
There are 146,527 known active community cases in New Zealand.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.