Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Tempers flare in evening, protesters try control unruly elements

One of New Zealand’s top police officers said “genuine protesters” are no longer in control of the behaviour at Parliament after human waste was thrown at cops.

The incident followed police erecting new checkpoints early Monday morning to keep new vehicles from arriving at the protest.

The afternoon was largely calm but stand-offs flared in the evening.

Near the Cenotaph shortly after 7pm, a scuffle broke out when police swooped on a man in the crowd.One man yelled up the Beehive steps asking for protesters toassist.

A man in the protest crowd set off fireworks at the intersection before other protesters grabbed the fireworkand handed him over to police.

Another man with a beer bottle in his hand started posturing and yelling “warriors” but a protester berated him.

“Are you here to mess it up for us all?” another protester yelled at him.

Across the road, a bus to Karori waited to get through with traffic backed up behind.

“Please clear the road, and police will have no reason to advance,” a protester with a loudspeaker said.

“There is no confrontation unless we make a confrontation.”

An onlooker said the man pulled from the crowd was a troublemaker.

Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said the most antisocial aspects of the occupation showed genuine protesters were no longer in control of the behaviour.

“Spillage of effluent into storm water drains, throwing of human waste at police officers, disruption and intimidation at the courts and the University are unacceptable”.

Chambers said moves to close off the area around Parliament to arriving vehicles were proving successful.

About 5.30pm, dozens of police lined Bowen St and dozens more people watched from across the road as a dispute emerged over a white station wagon in the street.

A man took a close interest in the car’s right rear wheel and then embraced a woman who appeared to be the vehicle owner.

Some tempers flared again on Bowen St about half an hour later.

“You better smash that film up bro, or you’re gonna get done,” one protester yelled across the road at someone he thought was a journalist.

Another protester urged him to be calm, telling him it was a peaceful protest.

The annoyed protester swore back at him and indicated he’d been hurt in the ribs in a scuffle with police.

A cyclist coming down Bowen St then gave the middle finger in the general direction of the protesters before 11 police officers left the scene.

Police previously indicated more local patrols would be carried out to reassure local residents, students and businesses, and keep traffic flowing.

And six protest groups said the vast majority of attendees were peaceful but the early morning police activity had agitated some on the convoy occupation’s 14th day.

Nearby, the Supreme Court seemed to be cleared of obstruction.

The Chief Justice said that court, the Court of Appeal and Wellington High Court will stay closed this week — not due to the protest, but because of the pandemic’s impact on staffing levels.

Earlier, Jacinda Ardern affirmed a position to not engage with protest groups but indicated some the traffic light system could be relaxed in a few weeks.

That would depend on the Omicron chapter of the pandemic behaving as it had done in some other countries — surging fast, infecting many, then subsiding quickly.

The protest at Parliament has attracted a wide range of people and visitors.

Former TV newsreader Liz Gunn, who has equated mandatory vaccinations with rape, was at the protest scene and yachtsman Sir Russell Coutts made an appearance yesterday evening.

Coutts told Newstalk ZB the national conversation around vaccines and mandates had lacked critical debate allowing people to share perspectives.

Ardern and Deputy PM Grant Robertson urged those who wanted to attend just out of curiosity to consider the impact the occupation had on local business and students.

“Whilst some may simply be interested, I think they wouldn’t want to send a message of support for some of the messaging you’ve seen down there,” the PM added.

“The police are trying and working very hard to enforce a barricade around the side. I’m sure you would not want to make their job any harder.”

Robertson, Wellington Central MP, urged people to think of workers, students, residents and others who faced obstruction.

“If you’re here because you’re curious, think about the level of disruption that has been caused to all of those people and the harassment those people are currently receiving.”

The PM said she believed most New Zealanders would disagree with the protester groups’ demands.

On broader disagreements over policy, Ardern added: “I do not for a moment believe that differences of opinion mean that we are divided as a nation.”

Six protest groups released a message indicating some protesters were agitated after the early Monday morning police action.

“As those of you who have visited the site previously will know, 95%+ of people present on site are mainstream New Zealanders demonstrating in an entirely peaceful manner.

“The vast majority of people here are highly aggrieved that they’ve lost their jobs, have vaccine-injured family members, and their children are very upset about what’s happening to them at school.”

The Combined Protest Groupscalled on theGovernment to take note of Australian Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce’s comments about similar protests.

“The worst thing you can do to any substantial group that is isolated is tell them they deserve to be isolated,” Joyce told the Sydney Morning Herald.

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