Covid-19 Wellington protest: 100 arrests – charges include arson, rioting, inciting violence

A total of 100 people have now been arrested in relation to the Parliament protest’s violent end, with charges including arson, rioting and inciting violence.

An extra 11 people had been arrested today, Police Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers told reporters this afternoon.

A total of nine people had been charged with inciting violence and 78 with trespass or obstruction.

A significant investigation was underway into tracking down those who committed unlawful acts, with police viewing hours and hours of footage.

“The hard work continues. The investigation phase will last for as long as it needs to hold people accountable,” he said.

Police said they had established a crime scene around Parliament grounds and the surrounding area. Forensic investigations are also underway to determine those responsible for the alleged arson, police said.

Police added they would also check for hazards before the area can reopen to the public.

Protest spokesman Leighton Baker was pepper sprayed and arrested yesterday during the standoff with police. He was charged with obstruction and spent last night in custody.

The protesters were “mainly peaceful” and he said police were not justified in using pepper spay and, he claimed, batons.

“I got smacked in the side of the head with something,” Baker told Newstalk ZB’s Andrew Dickens.

“I just didn’t think that would happen in New Zealand.”

Asked if police had used excessive force, Chambers said the force used was necessary and proportionate to the actions they were facing. He confirmed that sponge bullets were fired at protesters yesterday.

The eight injured police officers admitted to hospital yesterday had all been discharged. Their injuries ranged from bumps and bruises, to bone fractures and head injuries.

Chambers thanked Wellington Free Ambulance for their support during yesterday’s violent clashes.

Story continues after live blog below

Earlier, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday’s violence on Parliament grounds was a sight she never expected to see and the area today was something akin to a “rubbish dump”.

The grounds would be restored as quickly as possible and being able to return and enjoy the area would be quite symbolic for the public, she said.

In total, 600 Police staff were involved and 50 firefighters. However, 40 Police officers were injured, and 8 were admitted to hospital yesterday.

Ardern thanked police, fire and security staff, many of which were abused.

“To each of you, we say thank you. You were there throughout these events at great risk to yourselves. Many of you were abused, some were injured. But you put your personal safety aside, in order to look after others. And for that we are very grateful.”

Earlier today, a police spokesperson said they are continuing to maintain a high visibility foot presence around the Parliamentary grounds and neighbouring streets today.

They said seven staff were in hospital overnight with non life-threatening injuries.

Two disorder-related arrests were made overnight, taking the total number to 89.

Aitken Street, Molesworth Street, and Kate Sheppard Place remain blocked by concrete bollards but they are expected to be removed tomorrow.

“The area was generally quiet with a small number of protesters located near the site, and parliament grounds remain closed,” police said.

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