‘Move away from our cenotaphs’: 14-day protest planned, police at Parliament

Anti-mandate and anti-vaccine protesters are planning to kick off 14 days of action in Wellington, beginning at the Pukeahu National War Memorial – but the RSA has asked them to move along.

The Unite protesters revealed last night they plan to assemble at the park from 2pm.

“Come along for a ‘Picnic’ at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, a place that symbolises our ancestors that fought for our freedom,” a statement on Unite’s website read.

The RSA’s National President BJ Clark says war memorials are not a place for protests.

“We absolutely support New Zealanders’ right to protest, but memorials are not the place to do it. War memorials and cenotaphs across the country were built as a place of commemoration, to pay respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.”
He says the RSA is “concerned” at how protesters will behave at the memorial.

“Pukeahu is the home of the Unknown Warrior, representing all those who gave their lives in service of their country and could not return home. We are obviously concerned about how the protesters will treat the grounds at Pukeahu, and will be regularly checking the site to ensure that no desecration occurs, and we’ll be seeking immediate rectification of any damage.

“We are glad you can enjoy your freedom of speech, but please respect those that gave everything to allow you the freedom to protest and move away from our cenotaphs.”

In response to the planned protest action, police have stepped up their visibility around Parliament.

The area has been fenced off and many staff from organisations based in the vicinity are being encouraged to work from home.

Even though vaccine mandates will be dropped from April 4 from most career paths – except Corrections, aged care, health, and border services- protesters say they will continue their disruption until the legal framework that enables businesses to choose if they want to use them is scrapped.

Tessa Jeffries, identified by RNZ as being part of the Unite group, and who was also part of the Parliament occupation says she will not stop until the health measures are “obliterated”.

“There’ll be protest action until we, first, get an acknowledgment. Second, we get an apology. Third, we get justice. And fourth … personally, I’m not stopping until the Covid-19 Health Response Act legislation is obliterated.”

Yesterday, around a dozen protesters turned up to Parliament leading to the arrest of Brett Power.

A video on social media shows him being led away by officers as the small crowd of protesters yell “Shame!”.

Police confirmed one person was arrested for breaching their bail conditions.

Power was arrested in the first week of February’s 23-day Parliament occupation when he tried to breach the police line and enter Parliament.

The occupation ended in flames on March 2 after police spent the day slowly evicting illegal occupiers from the lawn and surrounding streets of the parliamentary precinct.

In the 23 days before police moved in to reclaim the area, the streets surrounding Parliament were un-usable due to vehicles blocking roads, and protesters being aggressive to passersby and local businesses.

The Victoria University of Wellington law school was forced to close, as were several surrounding businesses.

When police moved in to evict them, protesters responded by setting fires and hurling projectiles at police, hospitalising seven officers. Hundreds of people were arrested in the chaos.

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