Covid 19 Protest at Omicron Houses of Parliament: Wellington residents and businesses call for police action
19th February 2022 There were 1901 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today as more people head to the protester-occupied Parliament grounds in Wellington. Video / NZ Herald / George Heard / Mike Scott
Tempers in the capital are waning as the anti-mandate protest in parliament continues to grow and nears its third week.
Several reports over the past 12 days cite antisocial behavior by protesters, including abuse of bystanders – among them children – for wearing masks, and surrounding streets and buildings have been overrun with tents, campsites -cars and cars.
The protest camp grew bigger yesterday when a new convoy of cars – which started in Auckland – arrived in Wellington.
As the number of protesters grew, police warned of “serious concerns” for safety during a concert at the site on Saturday evening.
The “Rhythm & Rights” concert, organized by the Destiny Church-aligned Freedom and Rights Coalition began at 4 p.m. and included performances by Shane Walker, Dam Native, Sweet & Irie and DJ Raw.
‘Police are aware of a concert planned on the grounds of Parliament this evening and have serious concerns about the health and safety of such an event,’ police said in a statement.
“We continue to maintain a highly visible and reassuring presence at the site, and staff are engaging with the public and protesters to provide guidance and, if necessary, take enforcement action.”
Police confirmed they attended at least six medical events as part of the protest and urged anyone illegally parked to remove their vehicle and allow rapid access to emergency services.
Around 800 vehicles are illegally parked around the protest site.
Police cleared illegally parked vehicles on Thorndon Quay – 15 were moved by protesters after police spoke to them and two were towed away. Most of the cars, which were originally parked in the middle lane, were removed by the owners peacefully.
Police added of the illegal parking situation last night: “Police are also noting the registration of vehicles currently obstructing traffic for follow-up action, and structures such as tents and marquees are being removed from any site that is not part of the main event region.
“The Sky Stadium car park is at capacity.”
On Sunday, Wellington City Councilor Rebecca Matthews told the Herald that police had to find a way to bring the situation under control.
“I think that’s what Wellingtonians particularly want to see: it’s all contained and not growing.”
She said residents were “very scared” and people were reporting “more brazen” harassment that had spread across the city.
“It seems to be happening in the direct presence of the police, and without any action being taken to protect people.”
Although protesters say they are fighting for “freedom”, Matthews said Wellingtonians had less and less freedom because of the protest.
“We have the impression that the city is no longer ours.”
She said wearing a mask to protect yourself and others had almost become a “marker” for being abused by protesters.
“We want to see more active policing, everyone supports the right to protest, we’re used to it in Welly, it’s part of our town, but we don’t think these people have the right to bully and harass Wellingtonians.
“Where are the police? We don’t want to be collateral damage.”
In response, a police spokesman told Herald Police they recognize the continued impact of the protest, particularly on residents of the town center and Thorndon area.
“The police have a strong presence in the area and [have] visits some residents, especially those most affected by the protest. »
In a separate statement last night, the police said they had a team ready to respond to incidents outside the parliamentary precincts.
“Police are also noting the registration of vehicles that are currently obstructing traffic for follow-up enforcement action.
“Police attended at least six medical events as part of the protest and continue to urge anyone illegally parked to remove their vehicle and allow rapid access to emergency services.”
On Friday, the country’s top police official said negotiation and de-escalation were the only sure and most desirable ways to resolve the protest.
Police yesterday confirmed that the number of people arriving on the grounds of Parliament to protest against Covid-19 vaccination orders and a host of other causes and grievances had increased.
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster and the city’s business leaders have written to Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Small Business Minister Stuart Nash asking for urgent financial support as protests in Parliament unfold in their second week.
“The pandemic is having a significant impact on businesses in Wellington, some of which are now on the verge of closing,” Foster said.
Foot traffic and spending in the city center is down 20-30% since the end of last year.
A Hawke’s Bay couple, who will not be named, said the warrants did not affect their work, but they were concerned about the vaccine itself, saying they had friends hospitalized as a result.
“Why isn’t the media reporting this? »
According to the latest safety report published by Medsafe on January 31, there have been 51,710 adverse events following reports of vaccination since the start of the Pfizer vaccination program in New Zealand.
Of these, 2,447 were considered serious and 49,263 non-serious.
More than 9.45 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered in New Zealand.
“The protective benefits of vaccination against Covid-19 far outweigh the potential risks of vaccination,” Medsafe said.
Experts, such as University of Auckland vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, have also backed the vaccine.
It had “absolutely been sped up”.
“It’s not because steps were missed, but because layers of bureaucracy and tight funding were removed virtually overnight and companies that normally compete with each other collaborated instead.
“The technology was already available.”
On Friday, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said police would not take enforcement action against protesters despite the protest site growing by the day.
Most of the protesters were peaceful and the protest groups had established some internal discipline, Coster said.
He also reneged on an earlier promise to start towing vehicles through the busy streets around Parliament, saying it would only escalate tensions.
“We had to explore this option and test what the reaction would be. This approach would have been provocative and unnecessary.”
A resident told the Herald on Sunday that while he supports the right to protest, he was sad that the university had to close for eight weeks and the impact it had on some businesses and commuters.