Covid 19 Omicron Parliament protest: Police trying to break down our morale, say protesters

At least two protesters occupying Parliament grounds have tested positive for Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health said this afternoon that “due to privacy concerns, we are not in a position to confirm whether or not they were arrested by Police”.

Those who have tested positive have been instructed to isolate themselves, the ministry said.

Defiant protesters earlier said police are trying to “break down morale” with blockades stopping food supplies and services such as rubbish collection and portaloos entering the occupation site.

The mood of the protest has changed significantly since the weekend, with numbers appearing to be less than a third of the peak on Saturday when thousands arrived from across the country.

The main food tent was closed on Wednesday – reportedly for cleaning, the band tent was no longer operating and dozens of rubbish bags were seen piling up.

The once chocka streets surrounding Parliament were down to about a third of capacity, with mainly just a hardcore crew remaining.

Since the weekend many protesters have left, some naturally because of the weekend ending but others as the atmosphere became increasingly tense and violent as a result of a “few hotheads”.

Police have capitalised on this also, launching operations on Monday evening and the early hours of Tuesday to install blockades, operating a one-way policy with no pass outs.

These actions also saw some of the most violent scenes since the first few days of the protest, including officers hospitalised after being sprayed with an “unknown substance”, a protester nearly driving into police and protesters reporting injuries from the arrests.

Protesters had been allowed to park for free at Sky Stadium but it was returning to normal operations tomorrow, and police were preparing to help move those people on.

One of the volunteers at the main food station, who refused to give her name, said these police actions had made life at the occupation much more difficult.

“Normally trucks would be able to come right up here,” she says, pointing to the massive food station made up of 11 gazebos with trestle tables and industrial cooking appliances parked in the centre of Molesworth St.

“Now they have to stop at the blockades and unload from there,” she says, referring to where the concrete blocks have been placed several hundred metres away.

Protesters had innovated and were using vehicles internally to transport the donated goods. Despite the disruption food continued to flood in, she said.

“There’s a bit of triple handling but nothing we cannot handle. I’ve never seen such overwhelming support. People are still turning up all day with carloads full and even hot trays of food to serve.”

Police said in a statement today despite the cordons they “continue to allow the service of both food supplies and portaloos at the protest”.

However, the protester disputed this.

“They aren’t letting in any of the food supplies, and the portaloos only maybe once every two days. Before they were serviced three times a day.”

Police refused to comment when approached by the Herald.

“They are trying to make things uncomfortable for us,” the protester said.

“I believe they are subtly antagonising us to break down our morale, but we are like water – solutions will flow.”

She said a lot of people had left after the weekend, but also many as a result of rising tensions.

There has been speculation on social media and from protest organisers police were engaging in a PR war, alleging some of the troublemakers had been planted, and raising questions about police suggesting sexual assaults had been occurring on site without contacting organisers themselves.

“There are some hotheads, as with any cause, they come from out and about and are not the actual, dedicated protesters,” the protester said.

“They come in and cause trouble and some protesters found it was not what they were here for, found it too upsetting to be associated with that and chose to leave.

“We all also have other lives going on too we want to get back to, but are dedicated to remain here.

“Over the weekend there were a lot of rubberneckers, some come to support us and some just came for a party, but during the week it is just like any other village.

“Despite [the police actions] morale is strong and we are here for the long haul to end the mandates.”

A police statement said they had noticed vehicles and people leaving over the past few days, but police refused to say if they believed the protest had gotten smaller.

The Herald estimated the number of vehicles in the streets surrounding Parliament to have more than halved since the weekend. Many of the larger house trucks and buses were also no longer visible.

Lambton Quay from the intersection with Bowen St to the bus interchange had been chocka, but by Wednesday was about a third occupied.

The atmosphere in the outer areas of the protest site was tense, with some people seen openly drinking alcohol from their camp sites and vans, and some continuing to intimidate media and passers-by.

Inside the protest site things continued largely as they have over the past two weeks. The atmosphere was mostly peaceful with the Hare Krishna drum circle continuing, speakers and performers on the main stage and many children about.

The number of protesters there had dropped significantly though and appeared a vast mismatch to the number of tents. Some protesters spoken to at the weekend had said they would be leaving their tent when they left on Sunday, planning to return the following weekend.

Police say they will maintain a presence at the site, and while refusing to discuss tactics, if the past few days are any indication further actions are highly likely.

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