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Trevor Mallard asked for the sprinklers to stay on all night.
The protestors are still there on the lawns of parliament. The convoy of angry and presumably damp people, with their tents and their muddled messages.
I walked by the fringes of the protest yesterday. One of the men recognised me as a journo and started screaming at me in the street. He looked desperate..
“There weren’t many arrests here!” He said.
“You know the truth!”
I pitied him.
It’s true the protest only constitutes a tiny minority of New Zealanders, but only a fool wouldn’t take some of those messages seriously. Politicians and media have been threatened with lynchings. ONE News reporter Kristin Hall was told she would be executed by a woman holding a sign saying ‘Love is the answer.’ All it takes is one crazy person.
Should the Police just arrest them all? It’s important to have consistency in Policing. It was a different stage of the pandemic and a different message, but Police didn’t rush in and arrest everyone at the Black Lives Matter protests. They didn’t arrest everyone who came to see Brian Tamaki in the domain. You can’t support the right to peaceful protest but only when the protestors are on your side.
That being said, this is different. The moment there are death threats, it isn’t a peaceful protest. We all now how quickly a mob of disillusioned people can whip themselves into something more serious. Speaking to politicians in the Beehive yesterday, the riot at the U.S Capitol is very much front of mind. Above all, Police have to show they have the capacity and strength to defend parliament itself.
This is probably the biggest test of New Zealand’s democracy since the beginning of the pandemic. Bigger than legality of public health measures and the border, the challenges over MIQ. Regardless of how it ends, the protestors will consider themselves martyrs. If they’ve lost their jobs through mandates, I suppose it’s not like they have anywhere better to be. This could go for weeks.
But for what it’s worth, I don’t think Police should crack skulls to force them out. Contain them, yes. Arrest anyone who openly threatens someone or rushes the parliament buildings? Sure. But for now, we need to stay with the non-violent options.
If the sprinklers didn’t work, maybe Trevor Mallard should bring in some speakers, and put the Crazy Frog song on repeat. Then, let’s cross our fingers for a good Southerly.