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New Zealand COVID protest grows after police draw back

WELLINGTON (AFP) – Protester numbers outside New Zealand’s parliament swelled yesterday as police scaled back efforts to clear anti-vaccine demonstrators involved in violent clashes a day earlier.

A festive mood prevailed at a makeshift tent settlement inhabitants have dubbed “Camp Freedom”, with music and dancing as police looked on from behind barricades.

It was a stark contrast to the fiery scenes on Thursday, when a phalanx of officers attempted to evict the protesters, arresting 122 people and using pepper spray to quell scuffles.

Wellington police described the hands-off tactics as a “measured approach”, pointing to the presence of children in the crowd.

“Police are continuing to monitor and contain protest activity at parliament grounds,” Superintendent Corrie Parnell said in a statement.

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