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Riot police clash with anti-vax protesters

WELLINGTON (AFP) – New Zealand anti-vaccine protesters pelted police with a “stinging substance” sending three to hospital with injuries yesterday, as tensions spilled over in an angry weeks-long protest.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern decried “absolutely disgraceful” scenes after the suspected acid attack, and a startling incident that saw one protester speed a car toward police lines before coming to a quick halt just centimetres away.

The brief but intense confrontations erupted near New Zealand’s Parliament early yesterday, as police moved roadblocks used to contain a protest camp that has clogged downtown Wellington for two weeks.

The Wellington protest began as a movement against vaccine mandates – inspired by similar protests in the Canadian capital Ottawa. It has since grown to around 1,500 people and encompasses a range of grievances, with some far-right messaging among the anti-government and anti-media slogans on display.

Assistant Commission Richard Chambers said three officers who were taken to hospital were “recovering well”.

He blamed a “certain group within the protest” for the “appalling” attack.

“Police officers are going about their work as best they can to bring peace to the situation… there’s a group (of protesters) determined to bring violence and aggression – we can’t tolerate that.”

Riot police form a line in front of the Parliament building in Wellington as anti-vaccine demonstrators occupy the streets and grounds outside. PHOTO: AFP

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