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Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Thousands of anti-mandate protesters ‘in it for the long haul’

Thousands of anti-mandate protesters gathered on Parliament’s lawn have said they’re “in for the long haul” and intend to stay for days.

Major highways into Wellington were brought to a standstill and the roads around Parliament blocked this morning as hundreds of vehicles flooded into the capital.

The movement – dubbed the Convoy 2022 – has attracted people from all over New Zealand, with hundreds of cars, trucks and motorbikes travelling from both ends of the country to arrive in Wellington this morning.

The group are protesting against the Government’s ongoing Covid rules and restrictions, including the vaccine mandate introduced last year.

A voices of Freedom spokesperson addressing the crowd at Parliament said they intend to stay for several days.

“We’re here for the long haul, and at least for a few days, with an opportunity for anyone to speak here between 11am and 1pm,” he said.

“It’s now up to each and every one of you to go back to your towns and cities, and stand up, stand up for freedom.”

Wellington District Road Policing Manager Inspector Wade Jennings said police have been monitoring the protest throughout the day, recognising individuals’ lawful right to protest.

“While there has been some disruption to traffic, there have been no significant incidents and subsequently no arrests.

“Police staff will continue to have a presence at the protest and will deal with incidents as they arise.”

Jennings said people travelling in central Wellington and on the motorway in and out of the city this afternoon should allow extra time as delays were likely.

Anyone with any specific concerns in relation to the protest activity should contact Police via 105.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council was considering its options.

“We’re obviously going to have to talk to the police about whether any enforcement is practicable, say today or any time soon.

“If we are going to do anything, we’ll obviously need the assistance of the police.”

Meanwhile, Metlink General Manager Scott Gallacher said they were disappointed at the disruption to their services today, which included school buses servicing the Thorndon area.

They had detours in place so buses could avoid the parliamentary precinct, and said they would be closely monitoring developments in the CBD.

The convoy arrived at Parliament earlier today after accidentally splitting into three groups on the state highway down to Wellington.

Both Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National leader Christopher Luxon said this morning they had no intention of engaging with the protesters.

People involved in the protest have come from both ends of the country – with a convoy of vehicles travelling from Bluff and another convoy coming from Cape Reinga.

Many of the cars have messages scrawled across the sides or windows, including: “They will not control us. We will be victorious.”

Another truck pictured online had the words: “No mandates … f**k off.”

Those organising the convoy protest have described it as a peaceful movement.

“We are fighting for New Zealand’s freedom,” a post on the Convoy 2022 NZ Facebook page read.

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