Welllington, 10 February 2022 (dpa/MIA) — More than 120 people were arrested Thursday as police moved to close a protest camp outside New Zealand’s parliament set up by opponents of a vaccine mandate.
“Police continue to have a significant presence at the ongoing protest on Parliament grounds,” Superintendent Corrie Parnell said in a statement.
He said they face charges including trespass and obstruction.
“Parliament grounds were officially closed this morning however a number of protesters are still refusing repeated requests to leave the precinct,” Parnell added.
“We continue to acknowledge people’s rights to protest, however those who behave unlawfully will face arrest,” said Parnell.
Radio New Zealand reported minor clashes between protesters and security forces outside the parliament building.
Thousands of demonstrators, apparently inspired by lorry drivers protesting in Canada, went to New Zealand’s parliament in Wellington in a truck convoy Tuesday to express their displeasure at strict coronavirus rules.
Many have since left but some have reportedly been on the site for three days.
In New Zealand, vaccinations are mandatory for certain occupational groups, including health workers, firefighters, the education sector and in the correctional system and military.
Employees who refuse face termination. Proof of vaccination is also required in cafés and restaurants, at church services and at the gym.
New Zealand long pursued a zero-Covid strategy, but last year Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern conceded that more contagious variants meant there was little chance of successfully continuing.
The country of five million people has recorded around 18,000 coronavirus cases and 53 deaths in connection with Covid-19.