Crowds of anti-vaccine protesters swelled outside New Zealand’s parliament on Friday after a day of violent clashes with police who failed to break up the rally.
The atmosphere was festive on Friday in the temporary camp, which its residents called “Freedom Camp”, amid music and dancing, in front of a policeman who was watching from afar.
These scenes contrast sharply with those on Thursday, when police tried to clear protesters, arresting 122 people and using pepper spray.
Wellington Police used this laissez-faire approach as a “calculated approach”, highlighting the presence of children in the crowd.
“Police will continue to monitor and contain the protest on Parliament grounds,” Wellington Police Chief Corrie Parnell said.
“The police have identified a range of different causes and motives among the protesters, which makes it difficult to open clear and dangerous lines of communication.”
Protesters camped in the corridors of Parliament for four days in a movement that began on Tuesday largely inspired by the “freedom convoys” of Canadian truck drivers in Ottawa.
The House of Representatives was declared closed to the public, but the decision was ignored and the number of protesters rose from about 250 to nearly 1,500 on Friday.
Carey, a protester who declined to give her last name, made it clear that the movement was determined to pursue its goal: to end the vaccination obligation.
“The way the police treated us shocked us all to no end,” she told AFP.
“What they did yesterday was far beyond what anyone expected. It was really brutal and brutal.”
New Zealand mandates the Covid-19 vaccination for people working in certain sectors such as health, law enforcement, education and defence. Those who refuse run the risk of expulsion.
A certificate of vaccination must also be presented at restaurants, sporting events, and religious services.
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