New Zealand police launched a further drive on Wednesday to put a stop to a three-week-long anti-vaccine mandate protest in the capital, demolishing an encampment outside parliament and hauling away cars.
As officials tried to clear the grounds, several fires broke out amid tents just metres from the parliament building, sending billows of smoke aloft before being extinguished by police, according to a Reuters witness.
“It was an attack on our frontline police, it was an attack on our parliament, it was an attack on our principles, and it was wrong,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference after previously stating that the protest should be ended.
She claimed that protesters were given sufficient opportunity to leave, and that the gathering was fueled by misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Hundreds of protestors have been blocking streets with trucks, vehicles, and motorcycles, in a protest that has resulted in violent fights, taking inspiration from trucker demonstrations in Canada.
Police stated earlier that 60 people had been arrested and that they had “made substantial progress” in clearing the demonstrators. According to officials, at least three officers were injured.
While some protestors dismantled their tents and fled, others resisted by hurling full water bottles, fire extinguishers, and chairs at police and shouted profanity.
Authorities deployed loudspeakers to warn protesters that trespassing on parliament premises would result in arrest. Some demonstrators were also pepper-sprayed. According to Reuters, a man in his underwear was seen pouring milk over himself to counteract the effects of pepper spray.
The demonstration began as a protest against COVID-19 vaccine demands, but it was later joined by groups advocating for the removal of all pandemic restrictions.
“We are battling for the survival of our way of life. We’d like to reclaim our sovereign right to our bodies “As she witnessed demonstrators come forward to prevent police advances, Kate Siegert, who is unvaccinated, expressed her displeasure.
Siegert, who traveled 640 kilometers (400 miles) from her home in Auckland to join the demonstration, claimed she lost her job as a result of legislation demanding vaccination for health-care workers.
At least ten youngsters were seen in the demonstration area, prompting authorities to express concern for their safety.
New Zealand, a country of five million people, enacted strong anti-virus restrictions that reduced the number of illnesses to little over 118,000 and 56 deaths, significantly less than in many developed countries. However, because to the Omicron variety, daily infections are nearing all-time highs.
About 95 percent of those who are eligible are given two doses of the vaccine, with shots being required for some front-line workers.
Julie Thompson, a qualified nurse who claimed she was unvaccinated, stood by the fires nursing a sore finger she claimed had been broken when cops shoved her off a park bench.
She told Reuters, “This is the final result of not talking to your people.” “It’s energised people.”