New Zealand parliament grounds set on fire as Kiwis lose it over Jacinda Ardern's Covid rules


Anti-vaxxers have lit fires on New Zealand’s parliament lawns and hurled stones at officers in chaotic scenes as police moved to end a 23-day impasse with protesters.

On Wednesday, the group clashed with riot police on the streets around Wellington’s centre of government with Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern saying she ‘expected their would be hostility, resistance and violence… but it was another thing to witness it’.

Several police needed to be treated for injuries sustained in the operation, which was launched before dawn and ran well into Thursday afternoon.

Police Commissioner Andy Coster said police needed to end the long-running protest as a dangerous element had infiltrated the group.

After four weeks of protesters occupying the Welllington Parliament grounds riot police moved in on Wednesday (pictured)

After four weeks of protesters occupying the Welllington Parliament grounds riot police moved in on Wednesday (pictured) 

The group had set up a tent city outside the parliament building (pictured)

The group had set up a tent city outside the parliament building (pictured) 

But by Wednesday afternoon some of the group had begun setting fire to rubbish and their own groups tents (pictured)

But by Wednesday afternoon some of the group had begun setting fire to rubbish and their own groups tents (pictured) 

‘In the last week we have seen a changing mix in the makeup of the crowd … those with good intentions are now outnumbered by those with the willingness to use violence,’ Commissioner Coster said.

‘The harm being done far outweighs any legitimate protest,’ he said.

By afternoon, the protesters proved Mr Coster right, setting fire to tents and structures on the lawns.

They also burned the slide built to make parliament more family-friendly, sending thick, black smoke into the air.

Protesters threw chairs at police, who say they found makeshift weapons including pitchforks and shields among the group, and lit multiples fires before fleeing the scene.

The protesters threw rocks and cobblestones ripped from the road at police (pictured)

The protesters threw rocks and cobblestones ripped from the road at police (pictured) 

Police said the group has been infiltrated by those looking for trouble and violence

Police said the group has been infiltrated by those looking for trouble and violence 

A children's playground was set on fire by the protesters (pictured)

A children’s playground was set on fire by the protesters (pictured) 

Ms Ardern said she expected violence and resistance from protesters but was shocked at the level of the chaos (pictured)

Ms Ardern said she expected violence and resistance from protesters but was shocked at the level of the chaos (pictured) 

After clearing nearby streets of protesters’ cars and structures, police with riot shields moved in on the lawns.

By the afternoon they had torn down tents, towed vehicles and made 38 arrests.

Mr Ardern could barely contain her fury at the protesters’ behaviour. 

‘I felt the same anger that I know many New Zealanders would have felt witnessing the hurling of basically any weapons that people were able to get their hands on – LPG (gas) bottles thrown onto flames … cobblestones being hurled at police,’ Ms Ardern said.

‘It was an attack on our frontline police. It was an attack on our parliament. It was an attack on our values and it was wrong,’ she said. 

Protesters became aware of the police operation to end their illegal occupation in the early hours, sending a simple message through its organising social media channel: ‘WAKE UP’.

At 6:31am they followed up with another: ‘All who can be on the ground need you all now please’.

They dug in to resist and at flashpoints around parliament.

A protester can be seen throwing rubbish on a fire on the parliamentary lawn (pictured)

A protester can be seen throwing rubbish on a fire on the parliamentary lawn (pictured) 

Police move in to clear protesters from parliament grounds in Wellington on March 2, 2022

Police move in to clear protesters from parliament grounds in Wellington on March 2, 2022 

A protester receives medical attention after he was sprayed by police at a protest opposing coronavirus vaccine mandates in Wellington (pictured)

A protester receives medical attention after he was sprayed by police at a protest opposing coronavirus vaccine mandates in Wellington (pictured) 

A fire can be seen among the tent village (pictured). Police made 38 arrests on Wednesday

A fire can be seen among the tent village (pictured). Police made 38 arrests on Wednesday 

A Stuff cameraman was assaulted by a protester, who said ‘this wouldn’t have happened if you guys had told the truth’.

Officers deployed pepper spray against protesters, which Mr Coster said was in response to police being sprayed with fire extinguishers.

‘Our message to those who do not want to be caught up … is please go home,’ Mr Coster said.

Many chose to do that, leaving a hardcore crew of a few hundred behind.

While in control of loudspeakers outside parliament, protesters played songs including ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. 

The protest began back on February 6, New Zealand’s national day, when hundreds of protesters took off from the furthest points of the country under the banner of ‘Convoy 2022 NZ’ bound for Wellington.

By Wednesday afternoon, police (pictured) had cleared most of the group

By Wednesday afternoon, police (pictured) had cleared most of the group

A fire rages as police move in to clear protesters from parliament grounds in Wellington on March 2 (pictured)

A fire rages as police move in to clear protesters from parliament grounds in Wellington on March 2 (pictured) 

An officer aims a bean bag gun (pictured) at protesters throwing projectiles at police

An officer aims a bean bag gun (pictured) at protesters throwing projectiles at police 

A man throws rubbish on a fire (pictured). Police said those who sought violence had infiltrated the group

A man throws rubbish on a fire (pictured). Police said those who sought violence had infiltrated the group 

They arrived two days later to protest the government’s COVID restrictions on the first day of the parliamentary year.

They set up camp on parliament grounds, left their cars on nearby streets and built infrastructure for ‘Camp Freedom’.

That included laundry, daycare, food and coffee trucks, as well as crystal healing tents, cryptocurrency stalls, and even toilets plumbed in the middle of a road into Wellington’s sewage system.

To the irritation of Wellingtonians, the local university and businesses, protesters staged daily rallies to shout invective at the government, journalists and health officials.

A member of the group can be seen with a wooden pallet board to shield themselves from police (pictured)

A member of the group can be seen with a wooden pallet board to shield themselves from police (pictured) 

The group had become increasing unruly over their four weeks at the site (pictured)

The group had become increasing unruly over their four weeks at the site (pictured) 

The protesters had setup a 'Freedom Village' where the offered crystal healing but by Wednesday afternoon protesters were setting fire to the tents

The protesters had setup a ‘Freedom Village’ where the offered crystal healing but by Wednesday afternoon protesters were setting fire to the tents 

A man throws a stone at police while another holds up a pallet board (pictured)

A man throws a stone at police while another holds up a pallet board (pictured) 

They regularly call for Ms Ardern and government MPs to be tried and executed.

They have thrown human waste at police officers and abused children for wearing masks as they walk to school.

Ms Ardern said she supported the police action.

‘They have been given ample opportunity to leave … the protest has been at times violent and increasingly fuelled by misinformation and sadly conspiracy theories,’ she said.

The protest has coincided with New Zealand’s biggest outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Water cannons were used at points throughout the clashes (pictured)

Water cannons were used at points throughout the clashes (pictured) 

A man shield himself from the water cannons (pictured) on Wednesday

A man shield himself from the water cannons (pictured) on Wednesday 

A line of police work their way towards the protesters (pictured)

A line of police work their way towards the protesters (pictured) 

At least 20 protesters, many of whom are unvaccinated, and all of whom are maskless, have tested positive to the virus.

Health officials say their unwillingness to get tested masks the true number, and COVID-19 is rampant among protesters.

On Wednesday, Maori leaders publicly denounced the protests with a spokesperson for the Maori King saying they should go home and look after their families. 

‘We do have some sympathy and empathy towards those that have lost their jobs and towards those that are actually feeling the pinch,’ Rahui Papa said. 

Wellington’s mana whenua (those who have traditional rights on the territory) said the protesters were disrespectful and flagrantly dishonouring tikanga  (customs).

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