Protesters surround New Zealand parliament
Protesters converged around New Zealand’s parliament to condemn the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, drawing a heavy police response and a crowd of counter-demonstrators.
Tuesday’s action saw around 2,000 people gather at the parliament building in Wellington, according to the Associated Press, which noted that law enforcement had made preparations in the area to prevent any major unrest, blocking off roads, erecting barricades, and barring demonstrators from bringing structures onto the grounds.
Footage purporting to show the protest march en route to parliament, as well as a crowd already gathered there, has circulated online, with many seen waving New Zealand flags, signs, and banners.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had no plans to engage with her critics, but urged protesters to remain “peaceful and lawful.”
While a similar protest around six months ago led to an extended occupation of the parliament grounds, many of the demonstrators who spoke to AP said they had no intention to stay and were merely there to voice discontent with the government’s handling of the pandemic. Though the action earlier this year was explicitly centered on Covid mandates in place at the time, Tuesday’s protest appeared more motivated by lingering anger over the ordeal, as many of the restrictions have since been lifted with a few exceptions.
HAPPENING NOW: Thousands gather in the capital for a mass protest against the New Zealand government.Head over to https://t.co/YZ93z22GkP for full live coverage throughout the day. pic.twitter.com/93iYNZQp2S— Avi Yemini (@OzraeliAvi) August 22, 2022
A counter-protest reportedly numbering in the hundreds also took to the parliament to face down the other demonstrators, with one participant telling AP “I’ve got nothing but respect for the mandates, for the vaccinations, for the way the health providers have handled the whole thing.”
According to police, there were no immediate reports of violence or serious unrest at Tuesday’s demonstration, in stark contrast to previous protests earlier this year which resulted in street clashes with police, vandalism and arson.