Quick Telecast
Expect News First

‘This is a moment’: New Zealand reckons with aftermath as smoke clears on violent protests | New Zealand

0 27


“We will not be defined by this,” prime minister Jacinda Ardern said, as New Zealand’s parliament grounds descended into chaos, fire and violence in a shocking end to the anti-mandate protests that have occupied the capital city’s centre.

An undercurrent of violence had simmered throughout the weeks-long Ottawa-inspired occupation, which was blighted by abusive behaviour, conspiracy theories, and death threats. On Wednesday, riot police moved in with pepper spray and rubber bullets, and the powder keg exploded. Protesters set their tents alight, and lit a bonfire beneath the parliamentary children’s playground. People could be heard whooping and yelling, “burn it down, burn it down.” As fires burned across the lawns, some protesters worked to spread them and set more tents alight, while a woman screamed “What are you doing? People will get hurt”. Gas bottles exploded as they were consumed by the blaze. At a bonfire next to the cenotaph war memorial, protesters threw tents, trash and wooden pallets on the flames. Others hurled anything within reach at lines of riot police: chairs, fireworks, rubbish bins, and paving stones ripped from the parliamentary paths.

Protesters face off with police near parliament in Wellington. Photograph: Dave Lintott/AFP/Getty Images

By evening, firefighter hoses had dampened the flames and revealed a graveyard of burnt tents, blackened grass, and tipped-over portaloos. A small group of 150 protesters who were funnelled down a sidestreet continued to clash with police.

As the smoke cleared, New Zealand was left reckoning with scenes without precedent in recent decades. Violence is a rarity at the country’s parliament, which has a tradition of openness, relatively light security and high levels of public access. The protests marked a confronting shift in tone from the first two years of New Zealand’s pandemic, which were characterised by unusually high levels of consensus and support for government public health measures, as well as rising levels of trust in science and experts.

Many protesters blamed the violence on police plants, outside agitators or “antifa” infiltrators. Christopher Best, a protester standing back from where the scuffles were breaking out, appeared shell-shocked. “What you’re seeing here is not the protesters that actually want to protest for the mandates, these are the extremists,” he said. Best had been at the encampment for 23 days and said the tone of the protest had shifted dramatically in the last 48 hours, but he struggled to articulate who the newcomers were. “We’ve seen another a group of people who just want to create trouble. These people are coming in and wrecking it.”

A man throws a desk onto a fire lit at a children’s playground on parliamentary grounds.
A man throws a desk onto a fire lit at a children’s playground on parliamentary grounds. Photograph: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

“They’re so new … we’ve been here a long time, and we don’t know them,” said Fern Cameron, who had been at the protest for eight days.

Now, the cleanup bill for parliament’s grounds, gardens and the surrounding streets could mount into the millions. But leaders are also reckoning with how to confront the social mess that parliament’s occupation – and its violent end – represented.

A protester throws cobblestones at police.
Many protesters blamed the violence on police plants, outside agitators or “antifa” infiltrators. Photograph: Dave Lintott/AFP/Getty Images

A massive increase in extremist language

“One day, it will be our job to try and understand how group of people could succumb to such wild and dangerous mis- and disinformation – and while many of us … dismissed it as conspiracy theory, a small portion of our society have not only believed it, they have acted upon it in an extreme and violent way,” Ardern said.

Dr Sanjana Hattotuwa, a misinformation and extremism specialist at research centre Te Pūnaha Matatini, said all of the ingredients had been present for the protest to descend into violence. “With the conditions that one sees online … it doesn’t require genius to say it leads to greater volatility, and the greater possibility of something like what happened today occurring,” he said. “Aotearoa New Zealand is not exceptional [in seeing this], but for the country, I think this is a moment,” he said. “We’ll be talking about this for a very long time to come, about what it means.”

Te Pūnaha Matatini researchers had been monitoring a massive increase in production and engagement with extremist language and disinformation on New Zealand social media sites, he said. “We have for months been observing the magma building up and building up and building up – and then the pressure and the final eruption.”

While the convoy and occupation had begun as a demonstration against mandates requiring many frontline workers to be vaccinated, they quickly expanded to play host to a range of far broader and more extreme views. Theories proliferated that would once have seemed like foreign oddities to many New Zealanders: stories of Q-Anon’s prophesies, of a genocide plot planned by Bill Gates, of an impending “Nuremberg 2.0” trial that would see the prime minister and numerous others put to death for crimes against humanity. The explosion of violence on parliament grounds will no doubt draw comparisons to Washington’s storming of the capitol in 2021.

Violence is a rarity at New Zealand’s parliament, which has a tradition of openness, relatively light security and high levels of public access.
Violence is a rarity at New Zealand’s parliament, which has a tradition of openness, relatively light security and high levels of public access. Photograph: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

“There has, all the way through, been an element to this occupation that has not felt like New Zealand.” Ardern said on Wednesday. “It has this almost imported feel to it.”

But Wellington’s occupation also had some elements that were distinctly homegrown. The country is dealing with rapidly rising inequality, a housing affordability crisis, and deeply embedded ethnic inequalities – elements that researchers said could contribute to the resentment and anger among some on parliament grounds. “What has struck me … is less a sense that violence and fascism is widespread [at the protests], although it is certainly there – but more that conspiracy theory thinking is rife,” inequality researcher Max Rashbrooke said. “I do think that’s worrying – and that yes, some of them will have become vulnerable to that because they feel disenfranchised.”

Protesters sit in the wreckage of the occupation after police cleared it.
Protesters sit in the wreckage of the occupation after police cleared it. Photograph: Eva Corlett/The Guardian

A large portion of protesters were Māori, and some said New Zealand’s history of violent colonisation and disfranchisement had contributed to their distrust of the crown, and desire to see mandates abolished.

Earlier in the week, Ema Weepu, a rongoa [traditional Māori medicine] practitioner, told the Guardian there were many different agendas present, but the central focus on mandates was shared. Visiting the week before the violence began, Weepu said at the time that colonisation contributed to some protesters’ anger and distrust of the government. “We have been oppressed,” she said. “They take our land, they take our children, they take our language, they take all of these things. So we end up with battered, bruised generations – and those are some of the angry people that are here.”

“We have a challenge in front of us, but so do many democracies,” Ardern said. She said there were no simple or short-term solutions on the table. “It’s not about taking away people’s ability to have differing opinions, to have debates, to take different positions and stands. People should, of course, always have that freedom of thought and view and perspective – and in New Zealand we’ve celebrated that. But when the debate you’re having is no longer based on fact, where does that take you? That’s the challenge we have.”

On the parliament forecourt, abandoned signs lay in piles or leaned against fences: “Jabcinda, crimes against humanity: guilty,” said one. “Peaceful protesters, not predators’ prey,” another read. A third asked: “What next?”


“We will not be defined by this,” prime minister Jacinda Ardern said, as New Zealand’s parliament grounds descended into chaos, fire and violence in a shocking end to the anti-mandate protests that have occupied the capital city’s centre.

An undercurrent of violence had simmered throughout the weeks-long Ottawa-inspired occupation, which was blighted by abusive behaviour, conspiracy theories, and death threats. On Wednesday, riot police moved in with pepper spray and rubber bullets, and the powder keg exploded. Protesters set their tents alight, and lit a bonfire beneath the parliamentary children’s playground. People could be heard whooping and yelling, “burn it down, burn it down.” As fires burned across the lawns, some protesters worked to spread them and set more tents alight, while a woman screamed “What are you doing? People will get hurt”. Gas bottles exploded as they were consumed by the blaze. At a bonfire next to the cenotaph war memorial, protesters threw tents, trash and wooden pallets on the flames. Others hurled anything within reach at lines of riot police: chairs, fireworks, rubbish bins, and paving stones ripped from the parliamentary paths.

Protesters face off with police near parliament in Wellington.
Protesters face off with police near parliament in Wellington. Photograph: Dave Lintott/AFP/Getty Images

By evening, firefighter hoses had dampened the flames and revealed a graveyard of burnt tents, blackened grass, and tipped-over portaloos. A small group of 150 protesters who were funnelled down a sidestreet continued to clash with police.

As the smoke cleared, New Zealand was left reckoning with scenes without precedent in recent decades. Violence is a rarity at the country’s parliament, which has a tradition of openness, relatively light security and high levels of public access. The protests marked a confronting shift in tone from the first two years of New Zealand’s pandemic, which were characterised by unusually high levels of consensus and support for government public health measures, as well as rising levels of trust in science and experts.

Many protesters blamed the violence on police plants, outside agitators or “antifa” infiltrators. Christopher Best, a protester standing back from where the scuffles were breaking out, appeared shell-shocked. “What you’re seeing here is not the protesters that actually want to protest for the mandates, these are the extremists,” he said. Best had been at the encampment for 23 days and said the tone of the protest had shifted dramatically in the last 48 hours, but he struggled to articulate who the newcomers were. “We’ve seen another a group of people who just want to create trouble. These people are coming in and wrecking it.”

A man throws a desk onto a fire lit at a children’s playground on parliamentary grounds.
A man throws a desk onto a fire lit at a children’s playground on parliamentary grounds. Photograph: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

“They’re so new … we’ve been here a long time, and we don’t know them,” said Fern Cameron, who had been at the protest for eight days.

Now, the cleanup bill for parliament’s grounds, gardens and the surrounding streets could mount into the millions. But leaders are also reckoning with how to confront the social mess that parliament’s occupation – and its violent end – represented.

A protester throws cobblestones at police.
Many protesters blamed the violence on police plants, outside agitators or “antifa” infiltrators. Photograph: Dave Lintott/AFP/Getty Images

A massive increase in extremist language

“One day, it will be our job to try and understand how group of people could succumb to such wild and dangerous mis- and disinformation – and while many of us … dismissed it as conspiracy theory, a small portion of our society have not only believed it, they have acted upon it in an extreme and violent way,” Ardern said.

Dr Sanjana Hattotuwa, a misinformation and extremism specialist at research centre Te Pūnaha Matatini, said all of the ingredients had been present for the protest to descend into violence. “With the conditions that one sees online … it doesn’t require genius to say it leads to greater volatility, and the greater possibility of something like what happened today occurring,” he said. “Aotearoa New Zealand is not exceptional [in seeing this], but for the country, I think this is a moment,” he said. “We’ll be talking about this for a very long time to come, about what it means.”

Te Pūnaha Matatini researchers had been monitoring a massive increase in production and engagement with extremist language and disinformation on New Zealand social media sites, he said. “We have for months been observing the magma building up and building up and building up – and then the pressure and the final eruption.”

While the convoy and occupation had begun as a demonstration against mandates requiring many frontline workers to be vaccinated, they quickly expanded to play host to a range of far broader and more extreme views. Theories proliferated that would once have seemed like foreign oddities to many New Zealanders: stories of Q-Anon’s prophesies, of a genocide plot planned by Bill Gates, of an impending “Nuremberg 2.0” trial that would see the prime minister and numerous others put to death for crimes against humanity. The explosion of violence on parliament grounds will no doubt draw comparisons to Washington’s storming of the capitol in 2021.

Violence is a rarity at New Zealand’s parliament, which has a tradition of openness, relatively light security and high levels of public access.
Violence is a rarity at New Zealand’s parliament, which has a tradition of openness, relatively light security and high levels of public access. Photograph: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

“There has, all the way through, been an element to this occupation that has not felt like New Zealand.” Ardern said on Wednesday. “It has this almost imported feel to it.”

But Wellington’s occupation also had some elements that were distinctly homegrown. The country is dealing with rapidly rising inequality, a housing affordability crisis, and deeply embedded ethnic inequalities – elements that researchers said could contribute to the resentment and anger among some on parliament grounds. “What has struck me … is less a sense that violence and fascism is widespread [at the protests], although it is certainly there – but more that conspiracy theory thinking is rife,” inequality researcher Max Rashbrooke said. “I do think that’s worrying – and that yes, some of them will have become vulnerable to that because they feel disenfranchised.”

Protesters sit in the wreckage of the occupation after police cleared it.
Protesters sit in the wreckage of the occupation after police cleared it. Photograph: Eva Corlett/The Guardian

A large portion of protesters were Māori, and some said New Zealand’s history of violent colonisation and disfranchisement had contributed to their distrust of the crown, and desire to see mandates abolished.

Earlier in the week, Ema Weepu, a rongoa [traditional Māori medicine] practitioner, told the Guardian there were many different agendas present, but the central focus on mandates was shared. Visiting the week before the violence began, Weepu said at the time that colonisation contributed to some protesters’ anger and distrust of the government. “We have been oppressed,” she said. “They take our land, they take our children, they take our language, they take all of these things. So we end up with battered, bruised generations – and those are some of the angry people that are here.”

“We have a challenge in front of us, but so do many democracies,” Ardern said. She said there were no simple or short-term solutions on the table. “It’s not about taking away people’s ability to have differing opinions, to have debates, to take different positions and stands. People should, of course, always have that freedom of thought and view and perspective – and in New Zealand we’ve celebrated that. But when the debate you’re having is no longer based on fact, where does that take you? That’s the challenge we have.”

On the parliament forecourt, abandoned signs lay in piles or leaned against fences: “Jabcinda, crimes against humanity: guilty,” said one. “Peaceful protesters, not predators’ prey,” another read. A third asked: “What next?”

FOLLOW US ON GOOGLE NEWS

Read original article here

Denial of responsibility! Quick Telecast is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave a comment
Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!!!

We have detected that you are using extensions to block ads. Please support us by disabling these ads blocker.