The anti-Covid-19 vaccine mandate protest outside Parliament entered its fourth day on Friday, with police preparing for demonstrations to continue through the weekend.
All protesters at Parliament were trespassed on Thursday but they didn't all leave, with some camping overnight and remaining on site on Friday.
Police are continuing to monitor and contain protest activity at Parliament grounds, Wellington District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell said in a statement on Friday.
"Police have identified a range of different causes and motivations among the protesters, making it difficult to open clear and meaningful lines of communication.
"Misinformation, particularly on social media, has been identified as an issue.
"Some factions are actively promoting false advice about people’s rights and police powers, which is misleading and factually incorrect.
"For example, the use of a particular word or phrase by an individual will not impact the arrest of anyone involved in unlawful activity," Parnell said.
No arrests were made on Friday but "trying to engage with key protest group leaders has been ineffective due to the vast array of interest groups and their conflicts with each other," Parnell said.
At around 4pm, the sprinklers on Parliament lawn went on, dowsing protesters. The Speaker, Trevor Mallard, made the decision to turn the sprinklers on, saying they are not legally on the grounds so he did not have a problem adding "slight discomfort".
Police will maintain a highly visible presence at Parliament grounds overnight.
Molesworth Street blocked by over 100 vehicles
Police said in a statement late on Friday night that Molesworth Street remains blocked by over 100 vehicles including large trucks, campervans and cars.
"Police are working on options to work with tow truck companies to have the vehicles removed, however there have been concerns from tow-truck operators, who have been threatened by protesters," Parnell said.
"Police sympathise with their position and we are exploring our options.
"A number of additional tents and marquees have appeared on the grounds today and police are again urging protesters to remove them.
"We are also working with the council to address the food trucks and other facilities that have been set up in the vicinity.
Police noted the weather is due to be inclement throughout the weekend, making conditions challenging for our staff and protesters.
"The blocked roads are extremely disruptive to both businesses and the public, free and safe movement around the city continues to be our priority," Parnell said.
Motorists are encouraged to avoid the area over the weekend.
Former National MP to attend protest
Former National MP Matt King is heading to Parliament for the 'Parliament dance party' planned for Saturday night. He will be joining protesters at the place where he used to work.
A spokesperson for National was dismissive of King's actions.
"Matt King is no longer an MP for the National Party. National is strongly pro-vaccination and does not support the actions or the anti-vaccination messages of those involved in Convoy 2022.
"Everyone has a right to protest, but people shouldn’t be getting aggressive and violent, breaking rules or impinging on the freedoms of others."
Speaker Trevor Mallard said he was aware of a video posted online by a far-right group that appeared to be filmed from Bowen House, which is part of the greater Parliamentary complex.
The Bowen House entrance has been temporarily closed.
Tents were still pitched on the lawn outside Parliament on Friday morning. There appears to be new barriers in place between the protesters and Parliament's forecourt.
Police take 'measured' approach
Some police officers carried batons earlier in the day, but have since removed them.
"That was not in line with current approach and staff have now removed this equipment," Parnell said.
There had been two arrests overnight for "alcohol-related behaviour" among those in the protest group.
A number of vehicles illegally parked on Lambton Quay had been moved overnight, with police asking the owners or drivers of remaining vehicles on streets around Parliament to move them.
Parnell said police want to resolve the disruption to local businesses and allow "free and safe movement" for Wellingtonians around the city "as soon as is practically possible".
"This is an extremely difficult working environment for our frontline staff," he said.
"However, police have been exercising their powers fairly and professionally, and have used force proportionate and relevant to the circumstances.
"It is important to note that Police on Parliament grounds continue to take a measured approach.
"Images and videos often do not provide the full context of the protest activity and the situation police staff face."
Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington said in a statement it's advising staff and students not to attend the Pipitea campus and to work and study remotely until the situation with protest activity in the area is resolved.
"A number of classes and events have been disrupted this week. We are hopeful normal operations will be able to resume on campus from Monday 14 February."
While many people are protesting peacefully, tensions escalated into aggression and got physical on Thursday. Police arrested at least 120 people and used pepper spray twice.
Two police officers were injured and 150 extra police were brought in on top of the 900 officers in Wellington.
Several hundred parking tickets were issued on Thursday as protesters' vehicles blocked roads surrounding Parliament but on Friday no cars were towed. 1News understands this is because no local towing companies were prepared to do the work.
Blocked roads caused a negative impact for businesses in Wellington, with customers too afraid to come into town because of the protest.
Protesters are wanting to get their message across to politicians, but most have gone home as Parliament has finished sitting for the week.
Police were there overnight monitoring the situation.
There is also protest activity outside Wellington and Christchurch.
Picton protest agrees to move on
On Friday afternoon, Marlborough District Council said the occupation of Nelson Square by protesters from the Freedom Convoy will relocated by 5pm on February 16.
Council chief executive Mark Wheeler said protest representatives he met with on Thursday had been "reasonable" and he believed they were acting in good faith.
"The group representatives agreed they will move on to private land to camp and sleepover. Council has offered them the use of Waitohi Domain, which is situated away from residential areas, as a day time meeting place where they can gather and pitch a food tent, until 5pm on Friday 4 March.
"During this time, they must disperse each evening by 9pm and sleep at private accommodation."
The following conditions were also agreed:
- The group will reinstate Nelson Square Reserve as close as possible to its previous condition.
- The group will not camp on any public land other than at approved camping grounds.
- The group will not impede members of the public from enjoying the grassed area of Waitohi Domain (other than that required for the their approved vehicle parking and tents).
- The group tidies up and removes all signage, equipment and rubbish from Nelson Square and Waitohi Domain.
Mayor John Leggett said the council had "deliberately sought a peaceful resolution that would not require the issuing of a trespass notice and police involvement".
"The council has received many complaints from residents, unhappy that an unauthorised group had occupied a local public reserve that is normally used for recreation."
Leggett said the protesters have "taken a more responsible approach to managing their impact at Nelson Square since the initial excited influx, keeping the noise down and tidying the site".