Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Parliament protest reaches flashpoint

As a coordinated Police operation continues in Wellington this evening, Police are urging the public to stay away from the central business district near the Railway Station, the Victoria University Pipitea campus, and northern end of Lambton Quay.

“The operation is the result of significant planning and the commitment of several hundred staff from around the country. Our intent is to reclaim public roads and restore order,” said Commissioner of Police Andrew Coster.

Earlier today, officers cleared Molesworth Street of all protester vehicles that had previously been blocking the street.

Sixty-five arrests were made throughout the day, with the anti-vaccine mandate protest participants charged with a range of offences including trespass, wilful damage, and possession of restricted weapons.

Up to 50 vehicles have been towed and approximately another 30 departed, Police said.

Three Police staff are being treated in hospital for non-life-threatening injuries as a result of clashes with protestors.

Fire and Emergency NZ also responded to a number of small fires deliberately lit on Parliament grounds this afternoon.

“These actions put both protesters and emergency service staff at significant risk,” Police said.

“Police continue to advise members of the public to avoid the Parliament precinct.”

Police also encouraged anyone who wanted to leave the protest but needed assistance to do so, to make themselves known to officers.

“Our message to those who do not wish to be caught up in our operation is, please go home. We have staff on stand-by to assist their safe departure from the protest area,” the Commissioner said.

“We were clear from the start that de-escalation was the preferred option. And during a period of engagement with protest leaders we were able to get in place tactics that de-escalated both the number of people and vehicles at the site.

“However, we reached the stage where protest leaders were either unwilling, or unable, to affect meaningful change to the behaviour and the impact of the protest on Wellington.

“I would like to close by extending my thanks to all the staff involved in today‚Äôs operation. This is challenging and difficult work and they have been professional and measured through out.”

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