New Zealand: Anti-vaccine mandate convoy protesters vow to stay ‘as long as it takes’ on Parliament grounds

Protesters hold placards as they support the convoy of vehicles blocking New Zealand's Parliament in Wellington, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.

Protesters hold placards as they support the convoy of vehicles blocking New Zealand’s Parliament in Wellington, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.&  | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspAP

New Zealand anti-vaccine mandate protesters faced off with police outside parliament Wednesday, as demonstrators camped inside the Wellington legislature’s grounds vowed to stay “as long as it takes”.

The protest, which began Tuesday as a copycat of a “Freedom Convoy” action by Canadian truckers, turned tense as about 100 police stood guard on the steps of parliament.

Many of the vehicles that jammed central Wellington’s streets the previous day had left by Wednesday, but a hardcore of several hundred protesters pitched tents and refused to leave.

Three were arrested after trying to breach the police line as supporters chanted “let them through” but officials said the event remained largely peaceful.

“Police will… continue to monitor activity recognising that people have a right to peaceful protest,” they said.

Aucklander Sel Currie said he had no plans to leave the capital.

“We’re here as long as it takes,” he said. “It feels very intimidatory here today, it feels like the police are trying to incite violence but it won’t come from us.”

A “Freedom Convoy” of truckers has gridlocked the Canadian capital Ottawa since late last month, prompting city authorities to declare a state of emergency.

New Zealand requires mandatory Covid vaccinations for people working in sectors such as health, law enforcement, education and defence, with those who refuse the jab facing the sack.

Proof of vaccination must also be shown to enter restaurants, sports events and religious services.