Police said some protesters had been using homemade plywood shields, pitchforks and fire extinguishers. Police also said they’d seen at least 10 children in the area and urged parents and caregivers to take them home.
Lisa Suasua, 55, who has been part of the protests for weeks said she would stay until the end.
“They [the police] have been pretty brutal. They don’t talk, they ask us to move on,” she said.
“They came in about 6 in the morning and started pulling up the tents in the church [grounds] that has women and children in it and just started coming through with their riot gear,” she said.
The protests have led to a more charged political atmosphere across the country. Ardern’s security detail has been increased after protesters heckled her at events, including as she was leaving a school visit in Christchurch last week. She said the protests had been fuelled by misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Politicians across all parties have refused to meet with the protesters.
Last week one protester drove a car towards a police line, narrowly avoiding officers, and police said some protesters had thrown human faeces at them.
Before Wednesday’s operation, police had arrested 132 protesters and laid various charges against some of them.
Protesters have been well-organised, setting up tents on the lawns outside Parliament and trucking in portable toilets, crates of donated food, and bales of straw to lay down when the grass turned to mud.
They even dug a vegetable garden, set up a childcare tent, and assembled makeshift showers as they signalled their intent to stay for a long time.
At one point, Parliament Speaker Trevor Mallard turned on the sprinklers and blasted Barry Manilow tunes in a failed effort to make them leave.
New Zealand is experiencing its biggest outbreak since the pandemic began as the Omicron variant spreads. On Tuesday, health authorities reported a record of nearly 20,000 new daily cases.
Ardern has said she plans to begin easing virus mandates and restrictions after the peak of the Omicron outbreak has passed.
About 77 per cent of the population of 5 million, or 95 per cent of eligible people are vaccinated with two doses.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, New Zealand has reported fewer than 100 virus deaths, after it imposed strict border controls and lockdowns to eliminate earlier outbreaks.
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