Violence erupted on the streets of the New Zealand capital Wellington across Tuesday as police moved to disperse protesters challenging the country’s coronavirus vaccine mandate.
Upwards of a dozen police with riot gear faced off with protesters near Parliament in Wellington in tense exchanges that followed violent clashes earlier in the day, the New Zealand Herald reports.
The specialist officers were accompanied by paramedics and took the lead during the clashes, followed by more than 30 police wearing protective glasses.
Police Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers told reporters the actions of some of the protesters were unacceptable and would be dealt with assertively, according to AP.
“Our focus remains on opening the roads up to Wellingtonians and doing our absolute best to restore peaceful protest,” Chambers said. “The behavior of a certain group within the protest community is absolutely disgraceful.”
Left-wing Labour Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said protesters had taken things too far and needed to return home at once.
“What’s happening in Wellington is wrong,” she scolded.
New Zealand truck protest supporters on Tuesday refused to leave and camped overnight inside the national parliament’s grounds in Wellington – picketing the parliament again Wednesday. https://t.co/8TA5EhmYfJ
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) February 9, 2022
The latest clashes began when police staff joined Parliament staff at dawn and used forklifts to move concrete barriers into a tighter cordon around the encampment, where hundreds of cars and trucks remain blocking city streets, according to local reports.
Police have used the barriers this week to allow protest cars to leave but none to enter.
Video posted online shows a white car driving the wrong way down a one-way street toward a group of officers who quickly step aside. The vehicle comes to a stop at the police line and several officers climb inside and pull out the driver.
Police said they said they had arrested one person for driving in a dangerous manner and two others for obstructing police.
Those protesters camping at the Wellington Parliament have vowed to remain there “as long as it takes“ for them to be granted freedom from compulsory vaccinations.
New Zealand has mandated that certain workers get vaccinated against coronavirus, including teachers, doctors, nurses, police and military personnel. A vaccine pass is also required to enter most stores and restaurants.
The protests come as New Zealand experiences its first big coronavirus outbreak, driven by the omicron variant.
MASK OFF: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted she wants to create two classes of citizens based on vaccination status. https://t.co/JItW1BI772
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) October 25, 2021
Daily case numbers jumped to a new high of more than 2,800 on Tuesday, although only a single patient was hospitalized in an intensive care unit. About 77 percent of the population is vaccinated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report