Attribute to Commissioner of Police Andrew Coster:
Police are today undertaking a major operation to clear the roads and restore order to the Wellington area affected by protest activity.
The operation is the result of significant planning and the commitment of several hundred staff from around the country.
Our intent is to reclaim public roads and restore order.
This morning you will have seen we have urged protesters who have not already departed, to leave now.
Our message to those who do not wish to be caught up in our operation is, please go home. We have staff on stand-by to assist their safe departure from the protest area.
We were clear from the start that de-escalation was the preferred option. And during a period of engagement with protest leaders we were able to get in place tactics that de-escalated both the number of people and vehicles at the site.
However, we reached the stage where protest leaders were either unwilling, or unable, to affect meaningful change to the behaviour and the impact of the protest on Wellington.
In the last week we have a changing mix in the make-up of the crowd at the protest – in particular we became concerned that those with good intentions were outnumbered by those with a willingness to use violence to effect their means.
We have observed an escalation in concerning behaviour which has resulted in today’s action.
This has never been about preventing lawful protest, but this particular protest has reached a stage where the harm being done far outweighs any legitimate protest.
By approximately midday today, we have confirmed 36 arrests, for a range of offences including wilful trespass, obstruction, wilful damage, assaults police, possession of a weapon, and refusing to provide identifying details.
We have towed 15 vehicles including a number of vans, campervans and trucks. These have been seized and will not be returned in the immediate future.
Three of our staff have received injuries, two with abrasions and one with paint thrown in the face. All received medical attention at the scene and are back working in operation.
We will continue to arrest and charge people where necessary and will continue seizing vehicles through the day.
However, public safety is our priority and where possible we are helping people to leave the area safely. We have been assisted today by a number of partner agencies including Wellington City Council, Corrections, Oranga Tamariki, Fire and Emergency NZ, NZDF, and Wellington Free Ambulance.
I would like to close by extending my thanks to all the staff involved in today’s operation. This is challenging and difficult work and they have been professional and measured through out.
Issued by Police Media Centre