20 Aug 2021

Covid-19: Police oppose bail for protesters fearing they will again breach lockdown rules

11:50 am on 20 August 2021

Police have opposed bail for two protesters who were arrested on the basis they feared they would continue to organise events in breach of lockdown rules.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said if people are persistently organising events during lockdown it creates a problem for everyone. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Three people were arrested in Christchurch yesterday after police were called to an anti-lockdown protest. A police statement said the protest followed a similar gathering on Wednesday when two people were issued warnings.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said there have been a small number of gatherings around the country generally protesting against lockdown.

"Our approach to those has been to encourage people to disperse and give them an opportunity to leave including a warning of the risk they're running if they stay and then if people have persisted we've moved to enforcement."

He said with the Delta variant having people gathering really increases the risk.

Coster said a couple of people who were arrested have been held in custody and police opposed bail.

"The reason for that is that if people are persistently organising events that are in breach of the rules then that creates a problem for all of us.

"People who are persistently bringing groups together, that really enhances the risk and so we've taken a pretty firm line on those people."

Asked whether there was a danger that this approach might give these people a 'martyr status' and build their profile, Coster agreed but said it was a balancing act for police.

"You can clearly see that's part of the objective, I mean some of these protests were being run outside police stations.

"Ours is a balancing act, what's the risk of enforcement action versus the risk of not and with the Delta variant we've seen in New South Wales what happens when protests have been allow to keep escalating and so in this case we've taken early action."

Coster said any protests need to wait until after the country is out of lockdown.

He said police are expecting some protests this weekend and in at least one case police have already sent a warning letter to its organisers about the risk that they are taking.

Coster said the letter told them not to protest under lockdown and that they can expect enforcement action if it goes ahead.

Mask wearing

Coster said mask wearing is still a new thing and some people will not be aware while others will take some time to adjust.

"Where we had a couple of arrests yesterday it wasn't just about the mask wearing it was about the way they were behaving towards supermarket staff and that situation had escalated and so we ended up with a couple of arrests."

But Coster said generally police are trying to educate people regarding mask wearing.

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