The anti-vaccine occupation of New Zealand’s parliamentary precinct has taken an ugly turn, with protesters lashing out at police and media.
One protester has been arrested for driving a car towards a line of police officers, stopping just short of crashing into them.
Three officers were also taken to hospital after an unknown stinging substance was thrown onto them, with all three reportedly doing well.
A further two officers have been arrested for obstructing police during a pre-dawn police operations aiming to curtail the protest, now into a 15th day.
On Monday morning, police erected barricades around the perimeter of the occupation, which takes in parliament lawns and surrounding streets, including a bus terminal, cathedral, university and government buildings.
Protesters threw human excrement at officers during the operation.
On Tuesday, police sought to move shrink the border using the barriers, encountering severe resistance from protesters who woke up to contest the action.
Police were forced back along one street as protesters chanted “Hold the line” and “Shame on you”.
Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said police deployed with riot shields as they became aware of further plans for protesters to throw excrement on them again.
The atmosphere is febrile and hostile, as journalists at the scene have experienced over the past fortnight.
Reporting from the balcony of parliament overlooking the lawns, media encounter a continued stream of abuse.
“They are very angry this morning. Shouting at police to arrest media … saying they hope we’re executed and they want us to stop lying,” Radio NZ reporter Katie Scotcher said.
The Convoy 2022 NZ protest began as a movement to Wellington to rally against vaccine mandates employed by the government to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates.
The occupation has appealed to fringe elements, including far-right individuals known to intelligence services, and those willing to attack police.
“The behaviour of a certain group within the protest community is absolutely disgraceful,” Mr Chambers said.
“Police officers are going about it as best we can to bring peace to the situation … to be met with the resistance we saw this morning was very disappointing.
“It’s disgraceful and unacceptable. We will continue to work with leaders within the group to help bring calm to those determined to do something different.”
Mr Chambers said police had also heard suggestions there had been sexual assaults among protesters, appealing to victims to come forward.