Listen to Today's Edition
New Zealand police clashed with protesters in front of the country’s parliament Wednesday before authorities regained control following three weeks of anti-vaccine mandate demonstrations, Evening Standard reported.
Officers moved in on hundreds of protesters who had been camped on the parliament’s grounds, tearing down tents and towing hundreds of vehicles used to block streets. At least 65 people were arrested for trespassing, causing damage and carrying weapons.
The operation has been described as the most significant use of force to date by New Zealand police.
The weeks-long demonstrations were inspired by the “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations in Canada, where thousands of people camped out in the capital, Ottawa, to oppose Covid-19 mandates.
Many protesters in New Zealand demanded the repeal of mandates and the right to make their own decisions regarding health, free of compulsion and penalty.
The protests have generated a very charged political atmosphere in the country with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying she was “both angry and deeply saddened” by Wednesday’s situation.
The unrest comes as New Zealand is experiencing its biggest outbreak since the coronavirus pandemic began: Health officials have reported a record 22,000 new daily cases as of Wednesday.
Ardern said she plans to ease regulations and restrictions after the omicron outbreak peaks.