New Zealand Police Arrest 120 Covid Protesters at Parliament

By BLOOMBERG

Police arrested dozens of people in the grounds of New Zealand’s parliament in Wellington on the third day of a protest against pandemic restrictions that was inspired by similar events in Canada.

About 120 protesters had been arrested by late Thursday afternoon in the nation’s capital, according to a police statement. They face charges including trespass and obstruction, and are forbidden to return to the site.

“A number of protesters are still refusing repeated requests to leave the precinct,” said Superintendent Corrie Parnell. “Police will continue to have a presence at parliament into the night and as long as necessary to ensure public safety.”

The protesters that remain at the parliament grounds have been singing and listening to speeches, and police have formed a cordon around them. Some of the people are preparing to spend the third night of their protest in tents, while others have illegally parked cars and campervans in nearby streets.

On Tuesday, about 2,000 people descended on the city in cars and trucks, disrupting traffic and attempting to mimic the truckers who have gridlocked the Canadian city of Ottawa. The convoy was timed to coincide with parliament reconvening for the year and was similar to the one held in the Australian capital of Canberra on Monday. 

Protesters Mimic Ottawa Blockade to Disrupt New Zealand Capital

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday it is time for the protesters to move on, Television New Zealand reported. 

“It is not unusual to have protest activity at parliament, that is part of our democracy,” Ardern told reporters, according to the broadcaster. “But we do need to make sure that we keep that balance with people being able to live their lives, particularly those who live in the Wellington region.”

More than 94% of New Zealanders aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and the country is currently rolling out booster shots as the omicron variant slowly begins to take hold in the community. 

The government has imposed vaccine mandates on a variety of industries and employees, including health workers, teachers and police. People are also required to show proof of vaccination to enter most hospitality outlets and public buildings.