Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Police carrying batons as more protesters arrive at Parliament

Tension at Parliament is rising as police, many carrying batons, arrive in numbers to continue to remove protesters occupying Parliament grounds as the ranks of the demonstration continue to swell.

Unlike yesterday, officers arriving at Parliament this morning are carrying batons as they move into position on the forecourt.

As heavy police reinforcements move into place some protesters can be heard yelling “remain peaceful” over megaphones – but other protesters are hurling abuse at the arriving officers.

At least two people who were arrested yesterday are back at the protest today. Police said yesterday those who were arrested would be served formal trespass notices from the grounds of Parliament.

Two more people were arrested last night for “alcohol-related behaviour” according to Wellington District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell.

Police will continue to take a measured approach to the protesters who are trespassing on the grounds of Parliament despite being repeatedly asked to leave.

“This is an extremely difficult working environment for our frontline staff,” Parnell said.

Protesters living in the makeshift camping site dubbed “camp freedom” are expecting more people to join their ranks across the day – including school children.

A large marquee has been erected and people are milling behind barricades patrolled by police, blocking everyone from the steps into Parliament.

Someone has started delivering a speech to the waiting crowd, addressing the rumours of riot shields being brought in by police.

“Is there a riot here? No!” he said to the crowd.

He encouraged the protesters to be peaceful and “let that vibration and that frequency permeate this whole place.”

He also said there was nothing cowardly about leaving the space if protesters felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

This morning Attorney-General David Parker poured scorn on the protesters occupying Parliament’s grounds, branding them “misguided” and “believing in garbage”.

“You’ve got a tiny group of New Zealanders who are misguided because they believe the garbage that’s on social media and they’re blocking roads.”

He said the actions of the protesters were preventing local businesses to open, people had been assaulted and abuse and threats had been hurled at journalists.

“This is different,” said Parker. “People obviously have the right to protest. I’m a political activist and I’ve been protesting on the streets since the 1970s but we expect people to abide by the law and we expect the police to enforce it and how they do it is for them.”

He also took issue with the former deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters who tweeted that if you occupy private land like Ihumātao you can stay as long as you want and were embraced by the government whereas if you occupied public land you would be trespassed on the same day and labelled a minority.

“He’s wrong,” Parker said.

Kāpiti Mayor K. Gurunathan says he “totally supports” Wellington Mayor Andy Foster and police to swiftly resolve the protest, as any effect it has in Wellington will flow through the other councils.

“I call on my regional mayoral colleagues to join me in totally supporting the Wellington Mayor and his council, working with the police, to take quick and effective action to stop the disruption caused by this remnant and unruly ramshackle bunch of protestors.”

He added he had attended protests too, including the 1981 Springbok Tours, but the protesters at Parliament are “abusing [their] democratic right. This remnant at Parliament grounds now is not representative of the peaceful protestors who exercised their democratic right to protest, made their point, and left”.

Yesterday, more than 120 people were arrested in a volatile day of “unprecedented” protests, with stretched police forces indicating the anti-vaccine mandate occupation could last days.

Tensions flared as police moved into “enforcement mode”, and scores of officers advanced on the crowd.

Parnell said on top of 900 officers in the district another 150 had been pulled in from across the country, with potentially more to come.

Protesters say the standoff will last until mandates over vaccines are removed.

As the occupation entered its fourth day, dozens of tents remained on Parliament lawn, with food services and portaloos set up and reports of reinforcements arriving from across the country.

This morning those taking part in the protest had begun livestreaming from Parliament’s front lawn, which they’ve named “camp freedom”.

A member of the camp says the crowd was calm and relaxed this morning, and their spirits had not been dampened by a spot of rain and wind.

He said there were a lot of rumours going around about the military being sent in today, and police reinforcements coming in from other parts of the country.

He pointed to extra protesters heading to Wellington too.

“People who’ve seen the footage from yesterday have jumped in their cars and are joining the protest today. We are resolute, more people are coming because of the police action, and it’s about to get a whole lot bigger.”

The man also spoke of the concern from protesters that police would make a move overnight to clear the camp.

“Credit to the police, they did not raid last night, they were told there are children in these tents.”

Protesters camping out on the parliamentary precinct’s front lawn could be seen erecting a large marquee as protection against the heavy rain forecast for the capital.

A protester has told an NZME reporter they are expecting more people to join them today, including a big group of school children.

“A whole lot of kids will come in today and they’ll see how happy and peaceful everyone is,” he said.

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