Covid 19 Omicron convoy Parliament protest: Protesters flood onto Parliament grounds as skies open

The anti-mandate, anti-vaccine and anti-authority protest at Parliament has entered its sixth day as Cyclone Dovi arrives.

Parliament’s front lawn had already turned into a swamp yesterday as protesters flooding from across the country were greeted with rain.

Former National MP Matt King was one of them, giving a rousing speech while also announcing he’d officially resigned from the party.

“I would have had to preach their position … I didn’t want to do that,” he told the Herald, saying he’d joined the protest to be among “real people” while urging them to remain peaceful and non-violent.

Meanwhile a battle within a battle continued as Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard employed his next attempt to make life uncomfortable for the protesters: setting up speakers to boom Barry Manilow and Covid-19 vaccination messages at them throughout the night.

The playlist includes Manilow, the Macarena – which had many dancing along – and Covid-19 ads and a recorded message of Mallard warning them they are trespassing and must leave, which were met with loud boos.

“We wanted to make sure everybody here had the warning about trespass and because of the number of unvaccinated people in the audience, we believe it’s important to promulgate messages about vaccination.”

It came after Mallard turned on the sprinklers on Friday night, only for protesters to dig trenches to drain the water.

Soaked and sodden the collective of vastly different causes looked increasingly settled in their illegal occupation by the end of day five, with well-stocked kitchens, a medical centre and even makeshift daycare set up.

Despite their growing presence police showed no signs of moving them on, with no arrests on Saturday and no attempts made to movehundreds of vehicles illegally blocking surrounding streets.

By evening protester numbers had swelled to several thousand, with hundreds of tents and gazebos remaining across the lawn – in defiance of Parliament rules and trespass notices issued earlier in the week.

They were in for a turbid night though, with MetService forecasting heavy rain.

After a violent Thursday that saw 122 people arrested, there were no arrests on Saturday, and just one on Friday evening for breach of bail, as police kept their distance and the crown remained relatively peaceful.

One person was carried out by police on a stretcher and taken to Wellington Hospital in a moderate condition by ambulance.

This came after another protester on Friday evening fell ill, with their ambulance treatment severely hindered due tovehicles blocking streets around Parliament.

Saturday morning saw the return of protesters and key organisers from the group Freedom and Rights Coalition, backed by Brian Tamaki’s Destiny Church, who had left earlier in the week after a splintering with more extremist groups present, including those on the far-right.

A vast array of speakers took to the podium, including from the Freedom and Rights Coalition, many of whom arrived on motorcycles, Voices for Freedom and Ted Johnston, co-leader of the New Conservative political party.

Speeches included a mixture of anti-mandate, anti-vaccine, conspiracy theory and anti-authority rhetoric, amid singalongs that had many dancing in the rain.

The crowd included young and old and from all corners of the country. Those spoken to by the Herald urged the line the protest was about vaccine mandates, and sought to distance the majority from the presence of far-right and white supremacist groups.

There have been no moves yet to shifthundreds of vehicles blocking streets and footpaths around Parliament, all continuing to frustrate Wellington city residents and businesses with a large chunk of the CBD shut off.

A police spokeswoman told the Herald they still had not figured out how to do so, after reports tow-truck drivers were too intimidated to do the work themselves.

The Herald understands the Army is being looked into as an option.

There have also been increasing reports of intimidating and anti-social behaviour, with stores across the CBD bolsteringsecurity and changing opening hours.

The Thorndon Farmers’ Market was called off on Saturday morning and New World Thorndon also altered its hours due to safety concerns.

Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Arcus said it was concerning to see the protesters become more entrenched, and threatening behaviour spread across the central city.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson earlier condemned protesters at Parliament, saying they are driven by “wild, false, dangerous conspiracy theories”.

Robertson, who has protested on the steps of Parliament himself, says he supports the right to protest – but those outside Parliament have lost that right due to their actions.

“When they threaten, harass and disrupt people and a whole city they lose that right. They have been trespassed, they need to leave.”

He added that threats of violence are unacceptable, and said he understands why police must move the protesters on.

“Looking down on a protest that wants to hang me as a politician, a sign that compares the Prime Minister to the March 15th terrorist, calls for arrest and execution of me and other leaders you might understand why I believe the police need to move them on.”

Convoy protests in Ottawa, Canada – the genesis for these protests – have crippled the city for a fortnight and disrupted trade with the United States. Similar protests are also taking place in Canberra and inspiring other movements worldwide.

The message from those assembled in Wellington on Saturday was clear: they are not going anywhere any time soon, and once the storm had passed the next move was on the police, and perhaps the Speaker.

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