New Zealand police Wednesday stormed parliament grounds in riot gear reclaiming the space where anti-vaccine mandate protesters had camped for 23 days.
Hundreds of police began moving across parliament grounds early Wednesday morning, breaking up the protester’s camp, dressed in riot gear and equipped with pepper spray. The police towed vehicles obstructing roads as they pushed forward. The protesters retaliated by lighting tents on fire, using fire extinguishers, and throwing bricks, road cones, or any other objects they could find.
By the end of the day, 87 arrests had been made and 50 vehicles were towed. Additionally, seven police were reported as injured during the operation.
In a statement released midday Wednesday, New Zealand’s Police Commissioner Andrew Coster stated:
We have observed an escalation in concerning behaviour which has resulted in today’s action. This has never been about preventing lawful protest, but this particular protest has reached a stage where the harm being done far outweighs any legitimate protest.
The protest first began outside the parliament building in Wellington as an objection to the government’s Covid-19 vaccine mandates. During the protest, protesters blocked off multiple streets with their vehicles, pitched their tents on parliament’s lawn, and attempted to install showers and toilets within their camp.
Speaking at parliament Wednesday evening Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed the country,
It was an illegal occupation, they engaged in hostile, violent, and aggressive behavior throughout the occupation, and today that has culminated in the desecration of this Parliament’s grounds. I am absolutely committed we will restore those grounds and we will not be defined by one act by a small group of people.
In the aftermath of the protests, community clean-ups have been organized to help clean up the grounds. Along with a give a little fundraiser that has currently raised over $14,000 to go towards fixing parliament’s playground after it incurred damage from the protest’s fires.