Police have elite negotiators at work to try to end the occupation of Parliament grounds, the Wellington Police District Commander has said.
The anti-vaccination protest inside Parliament is entering its seventh day.
Wellington District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell said morning report police negotiations continue to be hampered due to a lack of leadership among protesters.
Since Thursday’s 120 arrests, police have tried to open lines of communication with them and brought in additional police personnel from across the country in a bid to return the Parliament grounds to normal.
He said the lack of leadership because so many different groups are represented has made it difficult to open lines of communication.
“We are making good progress there and we have the best of the best in terms of New Zealand police resources in terms of negotiation teams. We will continue to use it and explore it as one of our tactics. keys.”
Police are also calling on protesters camped out in Parliament to work with them in an attempt to clear the streets of Wellington today.
The convoy protest was camped out for nearly a week, with 3,000 people in attendance over the weekend.
Parnell said the main priority for the police today would be to free traffic on the streets of the capital.
Yesterday he called on vehicle owners to get in touch so their vehicles could be moved to an alternative site, although he did not say where that is.
“I can only urge these people to work with us. Let us get you to an area where we can liberate these streets of Wellington, because it really disrupts normal Wellingtonians a lot.”
RNZ understands that the lower level car park at Sky Stadium in Wellington will be used to accommodate any vehicles voluntarily moved by protesters, as part of police efforts to clear the blocked streets around Parliament.
He declined to comment on President Trevor Mallard’s decision to use sprinklers and repetitive annoying music, except to say these were not tactics police would approve of.
The execrable weather of the weekend had also failed to dislodge “a hard core of demonstrators”.
“It’s not, if you look at the world stage where this is happening, to stop your path. It has implications on many levels.”
The protest was illegal, he said, with public roads obstructed.
Asked if it was a mistake to allow protesters to erect their tents, he said the pushback was “a wonderful thing”.
“History will probably write the book there… We’re primarily looking to move these lands to where they’re legally protesting.”
Misinformation spreads fast – researcher
A disinformation researcher says the toxic messages have taken a worrying place in Aotearoa – and should put lawmakers there on high alert.
Sanjana Hattotuwa monitors online extremism for the Te Pūnaha Matatini Disinformation Project.
He said what started as a relatively innocent convoy protesting vaccination mandates was hijacked by a handful of “actors” trying to challenge the New Zealand way of life.
He said morning report the messaging seen online over the past week was unprecedented.
“These are violent and harmful messages that are dividing the convoy and they have hijacked it as an idea. I want to be very clear – it’s not about the people in front of the hive.
“This is the convoy as it is projected and promoted online by disinformation agents.”
He used a few numbers he analyzed over the past week to illustrate his findings.
On Facebook, there were 165,000 interactions (likes, comments, shares) of messages from protest groups. New Zealand mainstream media only generated 68,000.
For videos, groups posted 365 videos generating 4.9 million views last week, while 276 videos by mainstream media generated 5.5 million views.
It is very worrying that disinformation videos have been shared 1.1 million times while mainstream media videos have been shared 476,000 times, Hattotuwa said.
“So these numbers are a sense of a sharp divide, a splintered reality, that’s what I call as far as how the convoy is perceived, depending on which media outlets you choose to trust… which will hit hard social cohesion in Aotearoa moving forward.”
He blamed “a handful of actors” pushing and spreading the harmful messages on a number of platforms.
“The argument isn’t really about warrants… It’s about desecration, denigration and destruction and executives are really, really harmful.”
The targets were anyone who disagreed with them, including government, mainstream media and academics.
“We call them [those posting the messages] super-spreaders.”
Hattotuwa said a lot needs to change in Christchurch after its earthquakes and the country will have to provide many responses to the convoy.
“It’s an earthquake moment in Christchurch for the country…”
He said there are challenges to the country’s social and political fabric, way of life, liberal values, democratic traditions and it is developing rapidly.
“So it’s very worrying on a number of fronts.”
Personal freedom trumps the greater good – former MP
The most recognizable person associated with the protest so far is former National Party MP Matt King, who spent the weekend in Wellington and addressed the intruding occupiers on Saturday, stressing the need to be peaceful.
He also told them that he had quit the National Party.
The king said morning report protesters would leave the precincts of parliament if the government sets a date for the removal of mandates.
If the date was set for “the very near future”, the ground would be cleared within a day or two, he said.
“People who are out there just want the warrants gone…it’s not about vaccines, it’s about choice, it’s about our personal rights, our basic freedoms.”
He described the warrants as “a violation of our basic human right to decide what goes into our bodies.”
When asked if a child with asthma has a right to know their teacher or nurse is vaccinated, he said the reality of deciding what happens in your body outweighs “everything greater good”. .
“There are people losing their jobs all over this country because of these mandates; they are unfair and unfair…”
It was “the grossest and most unjust thing ever”, that people lose their jobs.
While more than 4 million New Zealanders have been vaccinated, many did not support the mandates, he added.
Recalling that the polls showed that the vast majority also supported the mandates, he disputed their conclusions.
He said he spoke to many people involved in the protest and does not think they are violently threatening to kill politicians and journalists, but rather are “true blue Kiwis”.
The National Party has said it does not support the protesters’ anti-vaccination actions or messages.
Meanwhile, a Wellington cafe owner wants government financial support for businesses that have experienced disruption due to the protest in Parliament.
A Lambton Quay business owner who did not want to be named told RNZ that some protesters intimidated and scared his staff.
She said that due to the disruption, her income had dropped by 60% and she would struggle to pay her rent.