14 Feb 2022

Covid-19: Jacinda Ardern wants Parliament protesters to go home

From Morning Report, 7:09 am on 14 February 2022

The Prime Minister's message for protesters at Parliament is "go home".

Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report she has strong opinions about the protest and whether it is appropriate.

"New Zealand is a place where protest is part of who we are. Some of our greatest movements have been born of people movements, many of which have entered the forecourt of Parliament.

"But what I'm seeing, it is some kind of imported form of protest. We've seen Trump flags, Canadian flags, people who are moving around the outskirts of the area with masks are being abused, children and young people on the way to school are being abused, businesses are seeing people occupy their spaces.

"This is beyond a protest."

Ardern wouldn't comment on how police and the speaker had managed the situation so far though.

Police initially tried to move the protesters on Thursday and made more than 120 arrests but did not clear the area.

Since then, officers have stayed in the forecourt, but no further arrests have been made.

Speaker Trevor Mallard has turned on the sprinklers and played bad music to try and move the occupiers but to no avail.

"This is an area that I do not have expertise in, crowd management and protest management. It's a fray, I'm not going to enter into," Ardern said.

"Do I believe that they should be there? No. Should they go home? Yes. Especially, especially the children. Do I have strong views on it? Absolutely. But when it comes to the management of it, I am going to be clear that that is a role, and it is for the police. The speaker acknowledges that as well, and he has maintained close contact."

She said it is unlike any protest she has ever seen and rejected the idea that it was only about the vaccination mandate.

She does not believe that is any chance of negotiating with the protesters about the mandate either.

"What I have seen down on that forecourt does not suggest to me that this is a group that are interested in engaging in policy development."

She said the need for tools likes mandates is still there, although vaccination means there's no longer a need for lockdowns.