Student petition demands protesters moved from uni campus

Source: 1News

Speaker Trevor Mallard has got cross-party support for when politicians will open official dialogue with the anti-mandate protesters outside Parliament as the occupation enters its eleventh day on Friday.

"There will be no dialogue with protesters currently occupying the Parliamentary Precinct and surrounding areas until the protest returns to one within the law, including the clearing of all illegally parked vehicles that are blocking streets, the removal of unauthorised structures, and the cessation of the intimidation of Wellingtonians," he said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

"We note that there is a history of Parliamentarians attending peaceful protests or hearing from the leaders of groups who are at Parliament peacefully."

His stance was backed by all parties in Parliament.

Police acknowledged Mallard's statement, saying they would "continue to engage with protest leaders to bring the protest into a lawful state so that dialogue is possible".

"In the meantime, we will continue to keep the peace and maintain a visible reassurance presence around the precinct," a police statement said.

READ MORE: Speaker asks for cross-party support in effort to talk with protesters

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday branded the occupation on Parliament's lawn and the surrounding streets as "no longer a protest".

"Protest is not illegal in New Zealand," she said from Rotorua.

Day 11 of protest at Parliament

"Building camps on the lawn of Parliament, obstructing the ability of young people to go to school, of workers to operate and harassing those who are wearing masks and taking measures to keep themselves safe.

"That is the activity that is absolutely unacceptable and everyone in Parliament I've heard has called on that to end.

"What this has turned into is no longer a protest."

Meanwhile, Police Association president Chris Cahill says police could have moved in more quickly when the numbers were small to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

"It's hard to understand why they were allowed to establish such a big group and those sort of semi-permanent structures," he told 1News.

"When you've got small numbers you need to move and stop them growing and then put in those barriers to stop people getting access. I think that’s the lesson they'll get out of this."

The police union expects the protest to last several months.

"I think if we look around the world these things are incredibly difficult to deal with, the nature of setting up a camp with children and families. Police can't just go there on mass arrest and drag everyone away. It's not the style we like to use in New Zealand."

Decorated Kiwi sailor Sir Russell Coutts has announced he will join anti-mandate protesters next week as he's opposed to vaccine mandates.

“It's the first time I've ever felt compelled to join a protest,” Sir Russell, who said he's vaccinated, revealed in a Facebook post to his personal page.

“I'm also strongly opposed to the ever increasing erosion of our human rights and the growing limitations on our freedom of choice. I believe in having the freedom to be able to question so-called 'expert' opinion.”

A petition was launched on Thursday as the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association "urgently call upon the Government, Police, Wellington City Council and the University" to help relocate the protesters from the grounds of the Pipitea Campus and "free up critical bus routes" before the start of the first semester on Monday, February 28.

The petition has so far garnered more than 2500 signatures in the past 12 hours.

"It is clear that students, staff and the Wellington community want control of our campus back," the petition read.

"While VUWSA are firm advocates of the right to protest peacefully and believe in the importance of organising and speaking out - our students have a right to safely access their campus and education. There is no place for the harassment and intimidation which have been directed at students, staff, and the public - this is not peaceful protesting.

"During a time of such Covid-19 crisis it is important that our university community can utilise our facilities and the bus routes in this city safely.

"We want to see action now. Not complacency."