Protesters opposing coronavirus requirements are employing “intimidation and harassment,” New Zealand’s prime minister said on Monday, as officials seemed to adopt a tougher stance toward the convoy of protestors that has been disrupting the capital of Wellington for over a week.
Police first let demonstrators to pitch tents and sleep on the grounds of New Zealand’s Parliament before detaining 122 people on Thursday and then retreating. Last week, the demonstration dwindled to a few hundred people, but it swelled to roughly 3,000 people over the weekend.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters that officials’ tolerance was becoming thin.
“I have a strong opinion about the demonstrators and the way they’ve handled themselves,” she added, “because it’s gone beyond sharing a viewpoint to intimidation and harassment of individuals in central Wellington.” “That is not acceptable.”
Last week, Parliament Speaker Trevor Mallard sought to irritate demonstrators by turning on lawn sprinklers and blaring out decades-old Barry Manilow tunes like the 1990s smash “Macarena” on repeat.
On Monday, police advised demonstrators to relocate their unlawfully parked automobiles as quickly as possible, giving them parking at a nearby stadium as an option.
“Wellingtonians have the right to move freely and securely across the city, therefore keeping all roads open is a major priority,” Wellington district commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell said.
After hauling in portable toilets, boxes of donated food, and bales of straw to lie down when the grass turned to muck, the demonstrators, who oppose coronavirus vaccination requirements and were inspired by previous marches in Canada, looked to be very well organized.
Despite last week’s arrests and clashes with police, hundreds of tents remain on Parliament’s grounds, with vehicles and trucks blocking nearby roadways. After weathering a weekend of severe rain, protesters lined up on Monday for a brunch of grilled sausages and schnitzels.
Kacheeya Scarrow traveled 380 kilometers (235 miles) from Taupo to attend the camp out in her vehicle.
“All I want is for the mandates to be lifted and for people to have the opportunity to choose,” she stated. “I’m neither anti-vax nor pro-vax.” Everyone should have the freedom to do anything they choose with their own bodies.”
Another demonstrator, Joanna Plows, 70, said that the government had taken away her freedom “to choose whether or not we receive medical intervention.”
Teachers, physicians, nurses, police officers, and military personnel are among those who must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in New Zealand. Most retailers and restaurants also demand a vaccination permit.
After keeping its borders closed for much of the epidemic, New Zealand is now seeing its first large outbreak of COVID-19. On Monday, the number of daily cases reached a new high of around 1,000, up from roughly 200 only five days before.
However, owing to a vaccination rate of 77 percent and what specialists have described as the omicron variant’s significantly less severe symptoms, not a single patient was sent to intensive care.
After closing its borders and implementing severe lockdowns, New Zealand was spared the brunt of the epidemic, reducing the virus’s spread. Only 53 people have died as a result of the virus in the country’s 5 million-strong population.
The timing of the major campout, according to Ardern, could not be worse.
“At a time when we are witnessing a spike in instances and a risk to New Zealand’s public health and wellbeing, they want to see the same policies that have kept us safe, healthy, and alive abolished,” she added.