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.”