WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) – Police yesterday arrested dozens of protesters who were camped out on the grounds of New Zealand’s Parliament on the third day of a convoy protest against coronavirus mandates.
The arrests came after Parliament Speaker Trevor Mallard took the rare step of closing the grounds.
Police called in more than 100 extra officers from other parts of the country. Still, police seemed prepared to wait it out as officers formed a line and ordered people to leave but only very slowly advanced on them.
By evening, police had arrested more than 120 people and charged many of them with trespassing or obstruction. Police wore protective vests but didn’t don riot gear or carry guns. Some protesters were readying to hunker down for a third night.
Police said they had told everybody on the grounds they were trespassing.
“Police have appealed repeatedly to protestors to leave the grounds and have begun evicting people from the precinct,” said Superintendent Corrie Parnell, the Wellington district commander. “While police acknowledge people’s right to protest, this needs to be conducted in a way that does not unfairly impact on the wider public.”
The protest began on Tuesday after more than 1,000 people driving cars and trucks converged on Parliament in a convoy inspired by protests in Canada and elsewhere.
The number of protesters dwindled to a couple of hundred yesterday. Some of the protesters’ vehicles remained parked in the middle of streets around Parliament, forcing some street closures. The National Library and many cafes and bars in the area closed their doors while the protest played out.
Parliament’s grounds are often the site of peaceful protests, although mass campouts are unusual.
Typically at least some politicians will come out to listen to the concerns of protesters, but politicians reconvening at Parliament after a summer break appeared to be in rare unison by not acknowledging the protesters, who Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said weren’t representative of New Zealanders.