Hundreds of protesters defied a police ultimatum to leave the area around Wellington’s ‘Beehive’ parliament on Wednesday, with the crowd continuing to swell. The authorities have described the ongoing demonstration as “orderly.”
Inspired by the ‘Freedom Convoy’ in Canada, activists have blocked several roads in the capital with trucks, vans and motorcycles for nine days. Protesters have also been camping on the grounds outside the distinctive parliament building.
On Tuesday, police requested that the demonstrators move on voluntarily, warning that the authorities would otherwise start towing vehicles away and seizing equipment.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers said that there had been an “influx” of protesters, including children, around parliament, but added that the crowd was “orderly.”
“This is a very complex situation, and we are mindful of the tactics we need to take so that the situation is not escalated,” Chambers noted, adding that there were about 450 vehicles blocking the site.
The police chief said that there had been some progress in engaging with protest leaders on Wednesday, and around a dozen vehicles had left voluntarily.
The protests began in opposition to vaccine mandates but have expanded to include broader resistance to New Zealand’s Covid-19 restrictions, which are among the strictest and longest lasting in the world.
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Speaking to RT, Franko Heke, a musician and meditation teacher who has been at the forefront of the activism, said that New Zealand’s vaccine mandate is doing far more harm than Covid itself.