Protests: University speaks of students' 'sense of intimidation'

Source: 1News

The anti-mandate protest outside Parliament has entered its second week on Tuesday, despite being officially trespassed.

The protesters have caused major disruption in the capital, blocking streets and harassing members of the public near Parliament.

Protestors look on during a protest at Parliament on February 11, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Police are continuing to monitor the area, and on Monday asked the protesters to move their vehicles to Sky Stadium to allow traffic to flow freely.

It appears few took up the offer, however.

The groups say they will not leave until the Covid-19 vaccine mandates are scrapped.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern believed police still had a handle on the situation.

“We have protests in this place all the time, and we accept that as politicians. But, what we’ve seen out here is quite different,” she said.

“It is up to the police, though, as to the timeframes they work to and whatever enforcement action they take.”

National leader Christopher Luxon had to move into different accommodation in Wellington because it was near where the protesters were occupying.

He said he’d made different arrangements to stay somewhere else and got extra security.

Luxon said it was up to police and Speaker Trevor Mallard as to how they wanted to deal with the protesters.

"It’s not really about me and my safety. It’s really about the safety of Wellingtonians.”

He agreed with the Prime Minister’s decision to ignore the protesters and her refusal to engage with them.

ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden said she gave police the benefit of the doubt and believed they were doing the right thing amid an “unlawful protest”.

“What I don’t think has been right is that the Speaker of the House has been involved and has been aggravating the protesters and strengthening their resolve. I think we should leave to the police,” she added.

Wellington district commander superintendent Corrie Parnell said police were also concerned about the number of children at the grounds as "health conditions particularly around sanitation, and risk of Covid, are now growing concerns".

Police said the disruption to residents, schools and workplaces is creating real stress and people are feeling unsafe.

Victoria University's vice-chancellor Grant Guilford told RNZ around 1500 students and 300 had been told to stay home and learn online, with the business and law schools impacted by protesters occupying their car park and front lawn.

"That sense of intimidation is deeply felt by our female students and staff and as a result we've advised them to stay away," he said.

"We're also concerned that if the police do act and there is a physical removal of those protesters then that's right on our doorstep and that melee might catch our students and staff unawares.

"So we're just having to wait it out."

The university supported the careful approach taken by police.