New Zealand anti-mandate protesters clashed with police and 3 police officers were hit with a “stinging substance” which required them to go to hospital, as tensions spilled over in an angry weeks-long protest.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern decried “absolutely disgraceful” scenes after the suspected acid attack, and an incident that saw one protester speed a car toward police lines before coming to a quick halt just centimeters away.
The brief but intense confrontations erupted near New Zealand’s parliament early Tuesday, as police moved roadblocks used to contain a protest camp that has clogged downtown Wellington for two weeks.
The Wellington protest began as a movement against vaccine mandates, which was inspired by similar protests in the Canadian capital Ottawa. It has since grown to around 1,500 people.
Assistant Commission Richard Chambers said three officers who were taken to hospital were “recovering well.” He blamed a “certain group within the protest” for the “appalling” attack. “Police officers are going about their work as best they can to bring peace to the situation, there’s a group (of protesters) determined to bring violence and aggression, we can’t tolerate that.”
On Monday police reported demonstrators hurled human faeces at them, prompting officers to protect themselves with riot shields during the latest clashes. Ardern said she was concerned the protest was becoming increasingly violent.
“The attacks on the police have been absolutely disgraceful,” she said. “To anyone down there who thinks they’re part of a peaceful protest, that’s not what we’ve seen today, I would encourage them to leave.”
Wellington residents have complained about being abused by protesters for wearing masks, while schools and businesses close to the camp have closed. “Wellingtonians have had enough of this,” Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said. “Our streets have been blocked, our people have been harassed, our environment has been trashed.”
Robertson said those involved in the protest had crossed the line into illegal activity. “This is a protest that has gone well beyond what I think most New Zealanders would see as a peaceful protest, you’ve made your point, please leave now,” he said.
New Zealand authorities have also been in contact with their counterparts in Ottawa. Chambers said police, who have received criticism from locals for not doing enough to stop disruption, would have a “highly visible” presence around the protest. “Police do not wish to interfere with lawful protest, but the behaviors we are seeing are unlawful and will result in enforcement action,” he said.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WKRN.COM