Covid-19 Omicron outbreak, Parliament protest: Riot police move in during late-night tensions

Police officers in riot gear rushed to Parliament on Saturday night after a sometimes hostile day in which some officers were spat on.

As the Wellington anti-mandate protest enters day 20 today, it appeared the riot police were on the scene late last night in response to increased protester activity – and an apparent influx of people trying to arrive.

It was a rowdy and noisy scene, with protesters cheering, singing and speaking into megaphones. A forklift – used to support police to move barriers – arrived back at the scene and was being followed by several protesters.

Motorists in cars were sounding their horns, driving in circles and pulling up hear the blockade.

Several police vans also arrived at the protest – officers in riot gear were getting into them and transported to another location. Paramedics were also at the scene.

Other police gathered near the bus interchange.

Officers 'spat on', treated by paramedics

The rowdy scenes came as several police officers were treated by paramedics earlier yesterday after being spat on by protesters outside Parliament in a hostile day that led to one arrest.

As the Wellington protest enters day 20 today, police say the number of people turning up to join the occupation was fewer than they expected – with around 200 fresh arrivals.

However, police continue to urge people not to travel to Wellington this weekend to join the protest which has seen a growing number of Covid-19 cases within it.

As a warning to potential arrivals to the protest, police yesterday stressed the occupation site is “unsanitary”, some of the protesters are displaying “aggressive behaviour”, and there is an increasing lack of control by protest organisers.

It appears the message to stay away is being heard with Wellington mayor Andy Foster saying fewer people had showed up this weekend than previous ones, which police confirmed.

“That’s good because we want more people leaving than arriving,”,] Foster said.

Foster said last weekend was about limiting the expansion of the protest. The city council worked with police to break up camps in the Botanic Gardens and a group who looked to be setting themselves up outside Government House, he said.

The Ministry of Health has warned the protest in Wellington is a potential super-spreader event as there were 13,606 new community cases of this virus yesterday.

Five people were in intensive care units and 263 people in hospital.

Protesters who have been in Wellington were beginning to show up in hospitals around the country with Covid-19 after returning home, the Ministry said

“We advise all those currently at the protest, or who have been at the protest, who are displaying cold and flu symptoms to get a test and isolate until they receive their result.”

This weekend, police have been focused on using concrete bollards to contain and, at some points, shrink the protest’s perimeter.

Foster said the protest was like a home invasion for Wellingtonians.

“There’s a group of people who have occupied part of our city and we want it back.”

Despite some progress being made, protesters and police continue to clash over arrivals who have showed up hoping to join the occupied zone.

Yesterday police formed a line, blocking access into the bus interchange area, while protesters formed their own line with their backs turned to police.

In one instance, protesters tied a strop to a bollard and then to a car tow ball. As the lead protester and a police officer were arguing, the driver of the car lurched forward, almost rolling the bollard onto a nearby woman.

Fortunately, the strop hadn’t been tied properly and it let go before the bollard tipped.

Police confirmed one person was arrested in relation to the incident.

Paramedics attended to a small number of officers who were spat on by protesters at the protest perimeter.

“This is very disappointing behaviour,” police said.

Police have been conducting “reassurance patrols” at Pipitea Marae and with residents that live within the perimeter of the protest.

Any vehicles which arrive and park illegally outside of the protest perimeter may be subject to towing and impounding, police warned.

Police estimated about 300 vehicles remained in the cordoned area.

Police Minister Poto Williams said decisions on how protests are managed would always be a matter for the police.

“The police have our confidence – those who continue to disrupt the lives of others in the middle of a pandemic, do not.

“The protesters have made their point and now it is time to leave.”

Other anti-mandate protests have popped up around the country including in Auckland, Tauranga, and Christchurch as the protest in the capital marks its 20th day today.

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