Police set to increase presence at Parliament protest

Source: 1News

Relive 1News' live updates on day 15 of the anti-mandate protests outside Parliament.

What you need to know:

- The protest at Parliament has been in its 15th day

- Police worked to further reduce the perimeter around Parliament, moving concrete barriers further into areas occupied by protesters

- A person was arrested after attempting to drive a car into a group of police officers

- At least three police officers required medical attention after being sprayed with an unknown substance

9.30pm: Police say they will further increase their presence on Parliament grounds on Wednesday. In a statement late Tuesday, police said visibility will again be increased in the area to provide reassurance to Wellingtonians as they travel to work, school or home.

"Police remain extremely disappointed by the actions exhibited by some protestors today with some concrete bollards being moved from the perimeter of the protest area," the statement said.

"Late this afternoon, around 100 staff have successfully reinstalled the concrete bollards moved by protestors at the intersection of Bunny and Featherston Streets (near the railway station) and Lambton Quay and Bowen Streets. A number of those staff wore protective wear, following protestors appalling actions in throwing human waste at police officers.

"The road blocks were installed on Monday to restrict further growth of vehicles in the protest area, and to maintain access for residents, businesses and emergency vehicles.

"We will continue to have staff at each of the road closure locations to restrict further access of vehicles. Police reported cars, trucks and vans continued to vacate the protest area this afternoon.

"As we have previously stated, genuine protesters are no longer in control of the behaviour in and around Parliament.

"Police do not wish to interfere with lawful protest, but the behaviours we are seeing are unlawful and will result in enforcement action," the statement said.

Police will continue a highly visible presence in and around the protest area this evening and overnight. Police say there have been no further events of note since the operation to move concrete bollards this morning.

9pm: Wellington Girls’ College will be shut until at least next Tuesday, with the school citing an “increasingly volatile” situation with protesters at Parliament.

In a statement on the school’s Facebook page on Tuesday night, principal Julia Davidson said the decision was made after incidents around Molesworth St on Monday and Tuesday.

Read more: ‘Increasingly volatile’ protest shuts Wellington Girls’ College

“The situation is increasingly volatile and we have real concerns about how we could care for the students were something to happen during the school day," she said.

Davidson said students would work from home until and including February 28, with the school re-assessing its choice on Sunday.

8.30pm: Winston Peters has revealed a note he says was given to him by a young girl at the protest calling him a "hero". It comes as Peters toured the protesters' camp outside Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

8pm: A summary of Tuesday's developments include a person driving a car into a line of police, while three officers had to be treated in hospital after an unknown “stinging substance” was flung at them.

While some on Parliament grounds denounced the behaviour, others are deflecting.

There were hundreds of comments on social media sites aligned with the protest that claimed dangerous or hostile actions were being carried out by “paid plants” and other Government operatives.

Read more: False flag conspiracies rife after Parliament protest clashes

It was a claim that Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers said had no backing.

Disinformation researcher Byron C Clark said there were parallels between the rhetoric coming out of this protest and what was claimed during the insurrection of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

At the time, Donald Trump and prominent figures aligned with him suggested the storming of the Capitol was carried out by Antifa counter-protesters, despite overwhelming evidence that the rioters were Trump supporters.

“It’s allowing the more extreme elements to justify what’s happening thereby claiming it’s an outside actor. That’s getting some of the more moderate people believing that nobody on their side is possibly committing violence," Clark said.

On Tuesday, there were fewer protesters and vehicles on the streets surrounding Parliament than there were over the weekend.

6.45pm: As of 3pm Wellington Free Ambulance will no longer enter the protest area at Parliament.

"This decision has been made to prioritise the safety of our paramedics following the increase in hostilities experienced both this morning and yesterday," a statement said.

"As the only provider of ambulance services in the region, we will continue to support people requiring urgent medical attention, but this will be at a designated safe space outside the recently established cordon.

"It has been widely publicised that the protestors have established their own medical support within the cordon area. The Wellington Free Ambulance Tactical Emergency Support team will remain behind the cordon to support the NZ Police response.

"Please be assured that if residents, people at their place of work or shopping in or close by the protest zone require support we will respond as per standard procedure.

"Over the past 95 years Wellington Free Ambulance has responded to emergencies for anyone, anywhere, no matter the circumstances and this decision has not been made lightly. We hope that our community of supporters understand the need to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of our paramedics during this time of ongoing unrest in the Capital."

5.45pm: Most police have left after supervising the moving of bollards in the area.

5.27pm: A woman is yelling at police telling them to "get off the road" as they surround protesters.

Police lineup out the back of Parliament on Feb, 22.

5.16pm: Police are directing traffic past the protesters while the fork lift continues to move bollards, there are about 200 police in the precinct. A 1News reporter at the scene says "It's very windy here and getting cooler, and a few protesters are still yelling "love and peace".

5.05pm: The scene at the Wellington protest is calm with some protesters dancing as a singer takes the stage. Watch 1News' livestream ahead of the 6pm news to bring you up to date with the latest developments.

4.40pm: Police have been safely supervising the moving of concrete bollards outside Parliament but are now leaving the area.

4.20pm: Police have told 1News they are planning to move some of the concrete bollards stationed around Parliament. A long line of police can be seen heading down Bowen street while protesters chant 'love and peace'.

Police on corner of Lambton Quay and Bowen St.

4.06pm: National leader Christopher Luxon says "National's view on the protest has not changed - we have not, do not and will not endorse the protesters' illegal and antisocial behaviour.

"The actions of the protesters have been intimidating to Wellingtonians and abusive to police.

"It's been shocking and it needs to stop."

Luxon's statement comes after Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that his comments in a speech on Monday to National supporters sounded ‘dangerously close to sympathy’ for the protesters.

3:50pm: A large number of police can be seen lining up near Parliament, most wearing clear goggles and a smaller number in riot helmets.

3.20pm: An unmasked Winston Peters is currently at the protest, flanked by security but also speaking to members of the crowd.

It comes after Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that "all parties in Parliament have said we would not engage with those who were breaking the law in the occupation in Wellington at the moment".

Ardern and National leader Christopher Luxon also condemned ACT leader David Seymour for meeting with protesters last week.

In a tweet after his visit, Peters said he wanted to "listen to the protesters and hear their side of the story".

He criticised the Government and other politicians for their "refusal to talk" to the group, which he believed was "just going to make things much worse".

Last week, Speaker Trevor Mallard approached all political party leaders to come up with an agreement about how to engage with the protesters. The parties' agreement suggested a dialogue with protesters, but only if they agreed to remove structures and clear the streets.

2.20pm: Jacinda Ardern is speaking to media in Auckland, talking about the upcoming border opening as well as the ongoing protest in Wellington.

She says the actions of violent protesters towards police are “absolutely disgraceful”.

"There are a group that are increasingly acting out in a violent way towards police officers who are only doing their job," Ardern said.

She said now was not the time to pick apart an operation but the time to let the police see through the operation.

Ardern said for now the focus is in ensuring the issue "in the centre of Wellington" is resolved, saying it’s up to police how they decide to deploy their tactical response.

"To anyone who has said this is a peaceful protest, they could surely see now that in some quarters, it was not," she said.

She also said she believes the comments from National leader Christopher Luxon over the protest, sound ‘dangerously close to sympathy’ for the protesters.

"It's for him to justify his language but in my view Parliament was right when it stood firmly and collectively in denouncing what is happening on our forecourt."

"When it is difficult for people to just do their jobs in and around Wellington, we should all denounce that very, very clearly," Ardern said.

She said Government and police have been in talks with iwi, who Ardern said have also made their views clear.

"What is happening in Wellington, is not New Zealand.

"It's not and to see that difference in view being expressed, also does not make us a divided society. What we have is a group that's simply going too far, are breaking the law and need to leave," Ardern said.

1.40pm: Children's Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers says the anti-mandate protest on Parliament grounds is no place for children who could be harmed in escalating tension.

Eivers told RNZ the protest is an adult environment with escalating tensions and parents there should consider if it is appropriate to have their children there.

"I understand what they're feeling and why they're protesting, it's just that every parent [and] every caregiver is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their children."

1.10pm: There are 2846 new community Covid-19 cases in New Zealand on Tuesday. A total of 143 people are in hospital with the virus, including one in an intensive care or high dependency unit.

12.28pm: One last bit from Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers. Asked if he thought protesters promises they want things to be peaceful are genuine, he had the following response:

"I do think it’s genuine. Absolutely I think it’s genuine and we’re working very, very hard with them to bring peace and resolution to this situation.

"It’s a group of people that are determined to bring a different thing to the situation that we have here and it’s violence and aggression and we can’t tolerate that. The people of Wellington don’t deserve that.

"So we’ll continue to work with them, that leadership group and their own security and other peaceful protesters, to try and moderate some of that disgraceful behaviour.”

12.10pm: Chambers also said there had been suggestions there may have been sexual assaults in the protest area. He encouraged anyone with something to report to come forward, as police are the agency to investigate.

12.04pm: Here's more from Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers — He describes the "stinging substance" being thrown at three officers as "incredibly disgraceful".

He could not confirm whether the substance was battery acid or not, saying it "could be a range of things".

Asked if there was any hope left of negotiation, he said police remained hopeful of de-escalation. Protest leaders were helping with this.

Chambers said some protesters had left the occupation on Monday, saying there was "no doubt" some had gone due to the aggression of some.

Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers speaking on day 15 of the protest at Parliament.

11.55am: We're hearing from Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers. He describes police as operating in a "very challenging situation".

He says peaceful protesters among the protest are doing their "absolute best" to speak with those who are "determined to do something a little different".

Chambers says a number of protesters left on Monday.

Speaking more on this morning's operation, he says a group within the protest decided to "aggressively" challenge police.

He says behaviour by some of these protesters has been "absolutely disgraceful".

He describes the resistance of this morning as "very disappointing for everybody".

11.45am: Here's some more from the police update — About 250 staff were involved in this morning's operation. A "bollard line" on Aitken and Hill streets were moved in about 50m and 100m on Molesworth St.

"Following yesterday’s traffic management operation to install the barriers, Police were made aware of protesters' plans to again throw human waste at officers. Shields were only deployed this morning after protesters had thrown objects at staff.

"Officers will continue to be highly visible in and around the protest area today.

"As we stated yesterday, it has become increasingly clear that genuine protesters are no longer in control of the behaviour in and around Parliament.

"Police do not wish to interfere with lawful protest, but the behaviours we are seeing are unlawful and will result in enforcement action."

11.40am: A further update has been released from police on this morning's developments.

Police confirmed three officers had been taken to hospital for a medical assessment after being sprayed with a "stinging substance". That substance is still yet to be identified.

The officers are reported to be doing well.

"Police continue to be extremely appalled by the behaviour exhibited by protesters at Parliament," a statement read.

Police said other officers were "fortunate to escape injury" after a person deliberately drove the wrong way down Molesworth St. They "stopped just short of collidinbg with them".

Two people had been arrested for obstructing police and one person for driving in a dangerous manner.

11.30am: Just a bit of a recap of this morning's action — Calm has returned to the area around Parliament after police tightened their perimeter around the occupation by moving concrete barriers further in. There was a bit of unrest as a result, with at least three officers being sprayed with an unknown substance, while a vehicle tried to drive into a group of officers.

10:15am: A police officer carrying a riot shield fell to the ground this morning as police and protesters collided in Wellington.

Footage shows a group of officers with riot shields running down a street near Parliament, with some protesters running after them.

Shouts of “they’re coming can be heard”, while officers seem to be saying “move”.

It appears one officer and a protester ran into each other as the group of officers go from the footpath onto the road.

The force of the collision sends the officer falling to the ground.

A scuffle appears to break out between some protesters and police in the ensuing seconds.

Protesters can be seen pushing some officers, with officers trying to move the protesters back with their shields up.

9.30am Former prime minister Jim Bolger has told RNZ's Morning report that political leaders should "get off their high horses" and meet with protesters.

8.50am: A police spokesperson has confirmed to 1News three police officers from the confrontation this morning have been taken to Wellington Hospital.

1News understands more information will come out soon on this.

8.20am: Our camera is back on Parliament grounds, where a protester can be heard speaking over a loudspeaker.

He knows media are listening and said protesters are not violent. He said protesters woke up this morning to police with riot shields.

He said protesters were holding the line peacefully, but some were "antagonised" when others were allegedly pushed to the ground by police.

Day 15 of the protest at Parliament.

"No violence was incited on our side of the fence," he said.

8am: More from the update from police — Officers have been working to further reduce the perimeter around Parliament by moving concrete barriers further into areas occupied by protesters.

A large number of protesters have attempted to obstruct police from moving the barriers.

As we already know from earlier, in order to protect themselves from objects thrown by protesters, such as human waste, some officers are equipped with shields.

Police say at least three officers required medical attention after being sprayed with an unknown substance by protesters.

7.50am: A person has been arrested after attempting to drive a car into a group of police officers at the protest this morning.

Video shows people shouting "what the hell?" and "whoa, whoa, whoa," as the vehicle nears a line of police facing protesters.

"Get out" could be heard as police repeatedly tried to break the car's driver's side window.

It appeared an officer had to get into the car from the passenger side to unlock the driver's door, so the driver could be pulled out.

7.25am: Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has just finished appearing on Breakfast. He was asked about the protest and had this to say:

"Yesterday we saw the police create a cordon around the protests, effectively a one-way door for vehicles. I suspect that they have moved that cordon.

"This is the police doing what they said they would do to create that cordon and allow Wellingtonians to move around their city again.

"The people who live in my electorate are deeply distressed and disturbed by what's happened. This protest has disrupted businesses, we have schools in the area, we have students trying to go to those schools being harassed and abused.

"We have people who live there ... those people's lives are severely restricted at the moment. Yesterday, people would have seen excrement thrown at the police, poured down drains.

"This is a protest that has gone well beyond what I think most New Zealanders would have seen as a peaceful protest. If I am to speak on behalf of my constituents, I would say, you have made your point. Please leave now."

A human chain formed against police for a little bit on Hill St on day 15 of the protest.

7.10am: A protester has told a line of police with riot shields "stressed and angry" people have since calmed down.

Earlier, shouts of "do not resist" could be heard, along with "go, go, peacefully" and "shame on you" as police retreated up Hill St.

A line of protesters earlier, arms linked with their backs to police with riot shields, were singing waiata Te Aroha.

6.55am: Some protesters are pushing against officers with riot shields. It appears some protesters are being arrested and taken away. Paramedics can be seen behind walls of police.

6.50am: A police spokesperson has confirmed police are armed with riot shields this morning as a “protective measure".

They also said it is to protect police from having things thrown at them, such as human waste.

6.45am: Police carrying riot gear have been seen around the protest at Parliament. Riot shields are being held by officers.

6.30am: Recapping the protest on Monday — Police say recent behaviour of some protesters in central Wellington shows that genuine protesters are no longer in control.

Overnight more protesters were arrested after a plastic water bottle was thrown at police while others let off fireworks.

At one point on Monday afternoon human waste was thrown at police.

Police installed concrete barriers on Monday in an effort to contain protest activity.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said police would be sticking to its existing de-escalation approach, but that officers were taking a zero-tolerance approach to abuse, intimidation, or violence.

On Monday National Party leader Christopher Luxon criticised the Government, saying there was an "increasingly divided society" in New Zealand.

He said New Zealand should begin to remove vaccine mandates progressively once the country was through the Omicron peak.

"What we are seeing outside Parliament and the reaction to it, is the culmination of underlying issues that have been rumbling along in our communities for some time."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said once Covid-19 cases begin to fall, "that is the point where we can start doing things differently", in terms of restrictions and mandates.

Also on Monday Ardern said of the protesters: "They have made their point and it is time to go home.”