Covid 19 Wellington protest: 12 hours of mayhem – How standoff went up in flames

Police resisted calls for weeks to move in on the unlawful occupation of Parliament, fearing unprecedented violence should they confront the protesters causing havoc in Wellington. On Wednesday, the 23rd day of the standoff, those fears were realised. This is how it unfolded.

6.04am: A standoff commences at the Cenotaph as 125 officers move up Mulgrave St towards Aitken St.

6.47am: Police take control of the National Library.

9.30am: A large group of officers in full riot gear join the front line on the corner of Molesworth and Aitken streets. Conflict follows.

1.45pm: At a press conference, PM Jacinda Ardern addresses the conflict, describing the protest as “violent and fuelled by misinformation and conspiracy theories”.

2.30pm: Officers in riot gear and body armour gather outside the Parliamentary Library, sparking fresh skirmishes on lawn.

3pm: Widespread violence breaks out. There are claims pepper spray has been used on protesters. Protesters can be seen hitting and punching police.

4pm: A children’s slide at the site catches fire, creating thick smoke. Fire crew arrives.

5pm: Police clear a lot of the protesters’ campsite space.

5.30pm: Ardern holds a second press conference, saying she is
“deeply saddened’ to see Parliament’s grounds ‘desecrated”. She thanks police.

6pm: Molesworth St has been cleared of all protester vehicles, with 65 arrests and 50 vehicles towed. Three police are sent to hospital.

6.30pm: The main camping site is largely deserted. Police urge residents to avoid the CBD.

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