Arrests at Parliament as protestors breach police lines

By Will Trafford

Three men arrested at Parliament after breaching police lines during anti-vaccine mandate protest / NZME

Three anti-mandate protesters have been arrested on Parliament grounds, after trying to break through police barricades in front of the Beehive.

The group's part of the Convoy 2022 protest that arrived in Pōneke Tuesday and camped on parliamentary grounds overnight opposing vaccine mandates and restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19.

Some protestors could be heard telling the men to stand down as they advanced on Police. One of the men apprehended carried a red brief case saying he wanted to serve legal papers to the government, he shouted: "Media are guilty" as he was led away.

Wellington District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell said the breaching of the police line was "extremely disappointing" after protests had been "peaceful for the majority of the day".

All political parties have so far refused to meet the group but the leaders of ACT and National today have reiterated previous calls that vaccine mandates and passes should eventually end and the government should set a timeline to do that.

"When it comes to this question of hope and an exit strategy from Covid, I think it's worth asking the prime minister - is she constantly reviewing the evidence? What does Omicron mean for transmission? And, if Omicron means that vaccination is less effective against transmission, then does the rationale for her mandate policy stand?” Act leader David Seymour said.

When should mandate end?

"Act has always said testing should be an alternative to mandates and actually we should have a choice - our own businesses choosing what their particular vaccination policy is."

National's Covid-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop argued Omicron had changed the game as far as vaccination was concerned.

“Under Delta and under the wild strain of Covid the vaccines were efficient and effective at preventing and limiting transmission - that's not so much the case with Omicron ... so the argument about the collective benefit of vaccine passes and vaccine mandates is diminished," he said.

A man is arrested on parliament grounds after breaching police lines Picture / NZME

A man is arrested on parliamentary grounds after breaching police lines Picture / NZME

Both opposition parties suggested the intensity of protests on and around Parliament grounds were unacceptable, with National leader Christopher Luxon saying it wasn’t clear what exactly was being protested.

“I think there's a range of protests out there. It's very confusing to work out what it is. Essentially I think it's not fair ... when you're impinging on others' freedoms as they are, by blocking roads and making it difficult to get to and from work - that's not what it's about,” Luxon said.

'Respect the law'

Seymour said the protestors' actions today were "far too intense".

"It's possible to have a peaceful protest. I think what they need to do is respect the law, respect people's basic property rights and not believe that, because they disagree, they have the right to trample over a whole lot of other people.”

"I mean, they trespassed, they're breaking the law but, look, I just think it's rude to set up your tents on someone's lawn. Not everyone in New Zealand can do it. What makes them different?"  Seymour added.

On her way into the House Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said while people have the right to protest, they also have the right to be kept safe amidst the pandemic.

“That's exactly what we're focused on - and that's what the vast majority of New Zealanders are doing," she said.

About 50 protestors remain on the grounds this evening with police saying they will maintain a presence tonight and continue to monitor activity while recognising "people had a right to peaceful protest".