Police Minister understands Black Lives Matter protestors will not be prosecuted

The Police Minister says he understands Black Lives Matter protestors will not be prosecuted for breaking Covid-19 rules.

Thousands gathered at Auckland's Aotea Square yesterday and it was estimated hundreds turned out in front of Parliament in Wellington to protest the killing of US man George Floyd who died after a police officer pinned him to the ground by his neck for more than eight minutes.

Under Alert Level 2, public gatherings are limited to 100 people in New Zealand. 

Police Minister Stuart Nash said police would determine whether anyone is prosecuted or not.

"I understand they're not going to," he said. 

Mr Nash said police had taken a "graduated response to anyone in any situation throughout Alert Level 4, 3 and 2, in terms of people who break the rules" and he understood they took the same approach to the protests.

He said the "last thing (police) wanted to do was go in with a very heavy hammer and arrest straight away and ask questions later". 

"My understanding is that police had word with the organisers beforehand to really highlight the rules around Alert Level 2 and what needed to happen, and that didn't and that's up to the police to determine what action is taken."

He said despite sympathising with the cause of the protests Mr Nash said the flouting on social distancing rules was disappointing. 

"I think they were probably irresponsible in what they did."

1 NEWS has contacted police for comment. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the rules around Level 2 "are there for a reason, no one wants to have restrictions longer than we need".

"They have breached the rules, it was not right, New Zealanders have given up a lot. I understand the sentiment, but I cannot condone breaking the rules."

"If we want to continue to be successful we just need to hang in there." 

When asked if there is racism within New Zealand's police force, Ms Ardern said that "everyone would acknowledge no country is perfect and New Zealand has never claimed to be".

"We have to continually strike to make sure we address issues of unconscious bias in our own systems, what I am proud of is we are continually to see an increase in diversity in our police, because that is an important part of making progress."

"When it comes to the idea of the general arming of police I am totally opposed, I always will be."

National leader Todd Muller said he could understand the motivation behind the protestors. 

"But of course our current rules and requirements on people are to socially distance, which clearly didn't happen."

He said it was risky from a health perspective "if you are to take the advice given by the Prime Minister, but if you were to take the advice given by the deputy Prime Minister they were perfectly OK to happen".

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has said the breaching of Alert Level 2 rules at the protests  should have resulted in prosecution  for the organisers.

"If the authorities allow this to occur then we should be at Level 1 tomorrow," Mr Peters tweeted. 

Labour's Willie Jackson said their Māori caucus could understand the "passion, anger" held by the protestors.

"We understand all that, a lot of Māori are venting the same sort of whakaaro (thoughts)."

When asked the impact it would have on those who had sacrificed going to tangi and funerals during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Jackson said people were "so emotional at the moment, though I would imagine a lot of those people who were going to tangi, a lot of them were probably on the hīkoi too yesterday".

Labour's Nanaia Mahuta said they were asking all groups to respect the Alert Level laws. 

"The substance of the issue and reason why people are so passionate about what's happening in America is because many indigenous groups can affiliate to the issue.

"However, we're in circumstances that are unprecedented, we're trying to manage crowds so we can assure people that when they go out in public they are safe. We're asking all organisers of any activity to respect the laws."