Police clear parliament protesters in dramatic move
The fires are now out after tents were set alight as police attempt to shut down the protest on Parliament grounds.
There were rowdy scenes of protesters fighting with police and at least three suffered injuries. Many protesters were also sprayed with pepper spray.
Photo Gallery: Early morning clash between police and protesters.
See this link for the full version of this story with photos and video.
Watch: Police and protesters struggle. Warning: Footage contains violence and may have profanity.
The fires have been contained and there were no reports of injury. These actions put both protesters and emergency service staff at significant risk, the statement said. Police continue to advise members of the public to avoid the Parliament precinct. Police also encourage anyone who wishes to leave the protest but needs assistance, to make themselves known to our staff.
4:57pm: Lambton Quay gate is a stand-off. Hundreds of angry protesters are taking their chances with a powerful fire hose to throw bricks at the police line. People standing around watching, filming and laughing. Someone can be heard saying "they'll have to go home and we'll be back". Another person saying "they did this to themselves, the protest was peaceful".
4:51pm: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will "provide comment on the events outside Parliament" at 5.30pm.
4:43pm: More cars are leaving Lambton Quay. About a dozen now. Emptying out but hundreds still here and they are very angry, an RNZ reporter says..
4:40pm: There are arrests at the bottom of Molesworth Street.
4:39pm: Police are spraying protesters with fire hoses. Protesters are hurling large rocks at the police at the bottom of Molesworth Street.
4:37pm: Looks like police have largely cleared Molesworth Street. Protesters gathered near bus interchange, law school and bottom of Lambton Quay.
4:22pm: Heavy machinery appears to be clearing Molesworth Street next to Bowen Street. The police line is quickly moving down road.
4:17pm: Fires are being lit under trees on the Bowen Street side. An RNZ reporter says there is infighting with people pushing people or standing over them and accusing them of lighting fires.
4:15pm: Police have issued a statement saying they "are this afternoon removing some of the makeshift infrastructure from the protest area around Parliament.
Structures such as tents, gazebos and toilets have been removed by Police.The removal of these items will help restore freedom of movement in the area."
4:09pm: Police are now lined up at top of steps to Parliament. They have pushed across the forecourt in front of beehive.
4:03pm: The fire has allowed the police to make significant ground. They are now halfway across Parliament's lawn.
4:02pm: Huge bangs are coming as unknown objects explode in tents.
4:02pm: Meanwhile Orcon says internet services are coming back online now, following a brief outage. It says customers still offline need to be patient and hold off contacting the call centre, which is experiencing an influx of calls.
3:56pm: Another tent is lit on fire and another protester puts it out with water saying "stop burning shit!"
3:54pm: There is also an incident around the pile of belongings, people getting punched and accused of stealing from it.
3:53pm: Some people are cheering and throwing things on the fire.
3:47pm: Police have issued another update saying they have now arrested 38 people since 6am today. They said about 30 vehicles, including large vehicles such as trucks and campervans, have been towed.
3:45pm: Police sirens are blaring. They are urging protesters to move back for their own safety. Water is now being hosed onto the fire from behind riot shields.
3:45pm: Protesters seen running back down Molesworth Street and a second explosion is heard.
3:43pm: Protesters saying gas bottles in tents and are urging people to move back, reporters report hearing explosion.
3:35: People are breaking tents to use as weapons, some have used the poles like javelins. Protesters are throwing wood, whilst others are telling them not to throw stuff at police.
3:29: About half of the lawn has been taken back by police and there's a big pile of tents that have been ripped out. Protesters checking no one is in tents before police come through.
3:27: Police are pushing right up to the fence, the protesters are saying to storm Parliament. You can hear things breaking everywhere as people try to get their belongings out, one RNZ reporter says.
3:23pm: Police have advanced a good 30 metres into the lawn ripping out tents as they go, removing barriers and signs. The main resistance still on Molesworth St, crowds are retreating on the lawn as police move forward.
3:20: RNZ reporters say police are making major ground now after a massive push.
3:19: A number of protesters are bringing their belongings out of parl grounds.
3:17: Protesters gathering glass bottles. Seems they are about to throw them at police.
3:13: A few protesters are asking others to retreat back to Parliament's lawn. No one is immediately responding.
3:02pm: More stuff being hurled at police, more fire extinguishers.
3pm: The area being cleared is the one of the driveway entrances down into the underground carpark. A traffic cone is thrown at police.
2:59pm: One man has thrown a plastic milk crate at police. It bounced off the riot shields.
2:59pm: Protestors continue to spray fire extinguisher at police.
2:59pm: Riot police continue to push forward into edge of protest, clearing tents around the bottom of the library lawn. Loudspeaker messages continually telling people Parliament grounds are closed and people will be trespassed.
2:52pm: Police are deploying across Parliament grounds and there are reports tear gas has been used.
2:49pm: Smoke as seen from the Parliament building appears to be from fire extinguishers being sprayed again.
2:45pm: BREAKING: RNZ reporters say that police are being sprayed with fire extinguishers near the Court of Appeal.
Wellington hasn’t been a fun place to live this past month. Everyone’s divided and constantly on edge. Nobody feels as safe as they did a month ago.
— Joe (@MOJO546) March 2, 2022
2:36pm: A cafe near Parliament is desperate for police to remove protesters from the area so its customers can return.
David Page, of Word of Mouth cafe and catering on Molesworth Street, says in recent weeks trade is down 80 percent.
The business closed today because the public couldn't access the area while police attempted to clear the area.
But Page says it made some money from police, who bought coffees.
Page says some customers in recent days have been leaving money to pay for drinks for police officers. He's not yet sure if the cafe will be able to open tomorrow.
2:24pm: In case you missed it earlier, Police Commissioner Coster said earlier that Police will support protesters to get out of Wellington if their car is towed.
Vehicles that have been seized and will not released immediately, or if it is believed they will be used again for further offending.
One person who spoke to RNZ said they would be homeless if their car was seized.
Coster says there is a process in place to make sure people who have been towed can leave Wellington.
2:17pm: Today's action in Wellington is making international news, with Reuters reporting from the protest.
2:15pm: It might be a bit early to start making this claim, perhaps.
As I get older & more boring, I find most things roughly work out ok in the end.So it seems to have transpired in Wellington.In the end, @nzpolice have got it mostly right & will clear the place with some violence, but less than feared.And the occupiers have achieved nothing.
— Matthew Hooton (@MatthewHootonNZ) March 2, 2022
2:06pm: As if there isn't enough going on today, there's also reports of internet issues around the country, including for some humble live-bloggers.
We're investigating a network issue affecting broadband and some of our internal systems. No ETR is available at this stage. Our apologies for the disruption, we hope to have things up and running again very soon!
— Orcon (@Orcon) March 2, 2022
2:04pm: We're hearing that a van with someone sitting on the roof has just been driven in front of the gate near the police line and parked.
1:35pm: Video here of confrontations earlier at Parliament, including an attack on a police officer.
Warning: Footage contains violence and bad language
1:30pm: Turning to outside Wellington for a moment, the Porirua City Council has closed its campervan parking areas, which have been taken over by large groups of people believed to be anti-mandate protesters.
The council says it was alerted last night that the carparks at Ngāti Toa Domain, Motukaraka Point, Bradey's Bay and Onepoto Esplanade Reserve were all full.
It says the temporary closures are for health and safety reasons, given the number of people involved, the growing number of Covid cases and protest action elsewhere in the region.
Camping in tents is not allowed on any public land in Porirua.
History will remember this morning at Parliament as The Battle of Portaloo.#endtheprotest #GoHome #prettyplease
— Raybon Kan (@RaybonKan) March 1, 2022
1:08pm: A protester flies a New Zealand flag upside-down.
12:55pm: Police action appears to be slowing down within the blockade.
A wall of officers on Molesworth Street, outside the Court of Appeal, has been switched out so the entire group is in full riot gear.
More concrete blocks are being brought in although its unclear where they will be put.
12:49pm: "Usually Parliament feels like a very safe place to be," but that's changed in the last 23 days, she says.
12:47pm: "I've seen people pushing their kids around in pushchairs and small children walking around," RNZ's reporter says, expressing concern about the noise and cooler weather environment.
12:45pm: RNZ's reporter at Parliament says "it's weirdly quite quiet" now and very tense.
More police are arriving on the forecourt.
"At the moment it seems relatively subdued."
12:36pm: Again, our off-site live blog provider has chosen today to have some major technical problems, but before it went kaput we had embedded some stunning images earlier today of the action in Wellington. Here's a photo gallery of the early morning clash between police and protesters.
12:34pm: Rubbish is now being cleared from the front of the church where police gathered it earlier.
12:28pm: At the moment, things have calmed down a bit. RNZ reporters at the scene say it's possible this operation may extend into the evening and tomorrow. But the police aren't giving anything away yet as to their plans.
Watch Police Commissioner Andrew Coster giving an update here:
Coster says the pepper spray was used in response to protesters using fire extinguishers at the officers, Coster says.
The protest is "one of the most significant events in our recent history".
If your car is still sitting there somewhere on those streets, get it out before we tow it, Coster says.
"We're also seeing people take the hint, and realise that now is the time to get their belongings and leave."
The changing mix of the crowd on the site has been key for them, Coster says. As people who were there from the beginning left, Coster says people more focused on confrontation moved
We need to return order to this part of Wellington, and that means removing tents and other material, Coster says.
Coster says he is happy with how Police have reacted.
"We have seen tactics today including the deployment of fire extinguishers at police lines and the throwing of paint," as well as weapons and shields seen.
The operation has been in the planning for a number of days, Coster says.
There are hundreds of staff in addition to those in the Wellington district, he says.
"Nothing about this protest has been acceptable."
12:21pm: The protesters are now playing 'Poi E."
12:19pm: A police officer appears to be wearing bandages.
12pm: Asked why it's taken so long for this action, Coster says they have been trying de-escalation. "Now, the balance has tipped."
There is no interest in anyone here in turning this into a fight, he says.
"We will continue this operation until this is completed."
Coster won't give a timeline, saying it will be when the job is done.
11.50am: Coster says, "We have reached the stage where protest leaders were either unable or unwilling to effect substantial change."
In the last week, we've seen a changing mix in the make-up of the crowd, he says.
"We have been concerned that those with good intentions have been outnumbered by those willing to use violence."
"The harm being done far outweighs any legitimate protest."
Coster says 36 arrests are confirmed, and 15 vehicles have been towed. They have been seized and will not be returned for now.
Three police officers are injured; two with abrasions and one with paint thrown in the face. They have been treated at the scene and are back in action, Coster says.
"Public safety is our priority," Coster says and they will assist people wanting to leave peacefully.
Coster thanks the staff involved: "This is challenging and difficult work. They have been professional throughout."
11.45am: Police Commissioner Andrew Coster is now speaking on the police actions today at the Parliament protest.
He says the operation is the result of significant planning and the commitment of several hundred staff from around the country.
"Our message to those who do not wish to be caught up in our operation is, please go home."
We were clear from the start that deescalation was the preferred option, he says.
11:36am - There are 40 police easily by the church on Molesworth on stand by with full riot gear.
11:26am - The toilets that were controversially built on the weekend and other portaloos are being removed.
11:24am - Police are gathering in large numbers at the Molesworth-Aitken intersection, some in full riot gear. Protesters on megaphones have been asserting what they say is their right to stay on Molesworth St, and some have been singing the national anthem.
11:22am - Murphy Street is now closed from intersection of Pipitea Street, all vehicles being diverted eastward down Pipitea towards Thorndon Quay.
11:18am - The camp kitchen is being dismantled, and an RNZ reporter says that children are involved in taking it apart and helping move wood away.
11:14am - A Molesworth Street apartment resident says it appears some protesters are moving their structures into Parliament grounds.
He said that while cars and structures are being removed by police nearby, protesters are trying to relocate their kitchen.
He says the bulk of the protesters are at the frontline on Molesworth Street, and can see about 150 holding ground against the same number of police.
Who's got the mic at Parliament now? A running reply to the taped(?) police warning: "You tried to provoke us this morning but we built a little stage and wrote poetry."
— Tim Murphy (@tmurphyNZ) March 1, 2022
11:00am - Another group of officers in riot gear is moving in.
10:58am - A woman on a loudspeaker is calling police the gestapo.
10:55am - RNZ reporters say some of the vans by the police line appear to be leaving.
10:53am - Police have also removed a huge pile of rubbish and encampment materials from in front of the cathedral this morning.
10:51am - A laser was also pointed at the police helicopter, Police said.
10:41am - The latest release from Police:
A pre-planned operation to further restore access around the Parliamentary precinct has gained significant ground, with a number of vehicles and structures removed from the area this morning.
A large number of Police staff from around the country and within Wellington District have been deployed for this morning's operation, which commenced about 6am.
Police were disappointed to see protesters in possession of various weapons this morning.
These included, but were not limited to, the use fire extinguishers as weapons, a cord set up as a trip wire, paint-filled projectiles, homemade plywood shields and pitchforks.
At least three Police staff have been injured.
Protesters have repeatedly been reminded that Parliament grounds are closed, and that remaining there means they are trespassing.
Police are pleased with the number of people and vehicles that have voluntarily left the protest area this morning, and we will continue to work with partner agencies to assist us with the safe movement of people, including helping them get their vehicles out safely if they wish to do so.
Police want to reiterate this is not an appropriate place for children and we are working with staff from Oranga Tamariki.
10:39am - RNZ staff on the scene report seeing several children as young as 5 around.
10:38am - Police are removing the final toilets, including the ones constructed by protesters on the weekend.
Please note an image of Gerry Paul, a musician and promoter was used in this story earlier - this was a technical error and RNZ apologies. Gerry Paul has no association with the protests.
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