Wellington Prepares for Protests: City on High Alert Amid Anticipated Demonstrations
City Braces for Protests
The capital city of New Zealand, Wellington, is preparing for a series of protests planned for this week. In anticipation of the protesters’ arrival, streets around the Parliamentary precinct have been closed, bus routes have been diverted, and preventive measures such as the installation of fences and bollards have been taken. The protests are organized by various groups, including the Freedom Rights Coalition, the Convoy Coalition, and the Stop Co-Governance. These protests are set to culminate in a march on Parliament.
Police Prepared for Various Scenarios
Acting Superintendent Wade Jennings of the police force stated that they are prepared for a range of scenarios and are ready to ensure minimal disruptions to residents and businesses. While peaceful protests will be respected, he emphasized that officers would take enforcement action if necessary. He also asked bystanders to help the police by alerting them to any instances of law-breaking.
Concerns Among Commuters and Businesses
The expected protests have raised concerns among commuters and businesses. A commuter named Nicole expressed her hopes for the protests to remain peaceful. An anonymous Parliament worker voiced her disappointment at the return of the protesters but felt safer with the police and security presence.
Business owners have also expressed their concerns, particularly about potential financial losses due to the protests. Irene Liu, a café owner, is worried about the potential impact on her business, given that her staff are already working minimum hours. Alistair Boyce, the owner of the Backbencher Pub, voiced his frustration at the constant disruption to his business due to protests. He believes that the government is drawing undue attention to the protests, which he sees as benign. Despite the concerns and disruptions, the police force remains committed to maintaining peace and order during the demonstrations.
Impact on Public Transport and Road Traffic
The protests have resulted in road closures and rerouted bus routes, particularly impacting commuters traveling out of the city. Areas around Wellington’s train station and the largest bus exchange are expected to cause some disruption for commuters, with stops moved and routes changed. The most affected are likely to be evening commuters during peak times.
Protest Groups and Their Intentions
The police are in contact with the protest groups, which include the Freedom Rights Coalition, the Convoy Coalition, the Stop Co-Governance, and Pōneke Anti-Fascist Coalition, which has announced its intention to counter-protest. All groups have signaled their intention to demonstrate at Parliament grounds. However, the Pōneke Anti-Fascist Coalition clarified that it is not in contact with the police and does not expect to be in conflict with the police presence.
The Role of the Public and Police in Maintaining Order
While acknowledging that peaceful protest is an integral part of democracy, Acting Superintendent Jennings emphasized that the police have contingencies in place, should the situation escalate. The police have set up fencing and specific entry points into parliament to ensure that large structures are not brought in. The public has also been informed that Parliament closes at 6pm.
Wellington’s Response: A Balance Between Freedom of Speech and Safety
Wellington’s deputy mayor, Laurie Foon, stated that lessons have been learned from previous protests. While acknowledging the importance of freedom of speech, she emphasized the need for safety. The road closures are aimed at giving authorities some control over the impact of the protest, ensuring that the city remains safe and functions as smoothly as possible.
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