Protesters surround New Zealand parliament — Analysis

Demonstrators poured out in large numbers to protest the remaining Covid mandates

A large group of 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. 

The footage, purporting it to be of the protest march on its way to Parliament, and a crowd that has already gathered there is circulated online. Some were waving New Zealand flags.

Jacinda Adern, the Prime Minister, said she didn’t intend to meet with her critics. However, she urged protesters not to leave. “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 the AP said they had no intention to stay and were merely there to voice discontent at 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.

According to reports, hundreds of counterprotesters also marched to parliament in an attempt to subdue the demonstrators. One participant told the AP that the protestors were defeated. “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, acts of vandalism and even arson.

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