*This story was originally published on RNZ and is republished with permission*

Fire broke out at Parliament and the protest turned violent when police advanced to clear the grounds this afternoon in what the Prime Minister has described as “an attack on democracy”

Tents were set alight on Parliament grounds today, protesters clashed with police and three officers have been taken to hospital, after bricks were torn up and thrown at them.

There were rowdy scenes of protesters fighting with police and at least three suffered injuries. Many protesters were also sprayed with pepper spray.

8:06pm: Thanks for joining us for our live updates today, we’re wrapping them up for the night now but you can keep up-to-date with any further developments on the website.

7:56pm: Further afield in the Wellington region, the mayor of Porirua is concerned that the council has been forced to close campervan parking areas, due to an influx of apparent anti-mandate protesters. The Ngāti Toa Domain hit capacity last night, with up to 50 tents erected and rumours that more campers may be on the way. Mayor Anita Baker says public health is a major concern as the areas are only set up for self-contained campervans. She says there have been unconfirmed reports of a number of sick people at the domain and bollards have been erected to stop more vehicles from entering the grounds.

5:54pm: Police have had pitchforks, sticks and pipes used against them in the operation to clear the protest at Parliament today, Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers told Checkpoint. “We’ve made magnificent progress today our staff have done an incredible job, in very challenging circumstances,” he says. “You will have seen that has been met with significant resistance and violence from some, and we are very pleased with the way that our staff dealt with it today.”

5:40pm: Jacinda Ardern says the protest was an attack on democracy and the country will not be defined by a small occupation. She says she is saddened and angered by the protesters’ action, and Parliament’s grounds have been desecrated.

4:57pm: Police have issued another statement saying

Fire and Emergency NZ responded to a number of small fires deliberately lit on Parliament grounds this afternoon.

The fires have been contained and there were no reports of injury. These actions put both protesters and emergency service staff at significant risk, the statement said. Police continue to advise members of the public to avoid the Parliament precinct. Police also encourage anyone who wishes to leave the protest but needs assistance, to make themselves known to our staff.

4:57pm: Lambton Quay gate is a stand-off. Hundreds of angry protesters are taking their chances with a powerful fire hose to throw bricks at the police line. People standing around watching, filming and laughing. Someone can be heard saying “they’ll have to go home and we’ll be back”. Another person saying “they did this to themselves, the protest was peaceful”.

4:51pm: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will “provide comment on the events outside Parliament” at 5.30pm.

4:43pm: More cars are leaving Lambton Quay. About a dozen now. Emptying out but hundreds still here and they are very angry, an RNZ reporter says..

4:40pm: There are arrests at the bottom of Molesworth Street and armed police have been seen entering Parliament.

4:39pm: Police are spraying protesters with fire hoses. Protesters are hurling large rocks at the police at the bottom of Molesworth Street.

Photo: Marc Daalder

4:37pm: Looks like police have largely cleared Molesworth Street. Protesters gathered near bus interchange, law school and bottom of Lambton Quay.

4:22pm: Heavy machinery appears to be clearing Molesworth Street next to Bowen Street. The police line is quickly moving down road.

4:17pm: Fires are being lit under trees on the Bowen Street side. An RNZ reporter says there is infighting with people pushing people or standing over them and accusing them of lighting fires.

4:15pm: Police have issued a statement saying they “are this afternoon removing some of the makeshift infrastructure from the protest area around Parliament. Structures such as tents, gazebos and toilets have been removed by police.The removal of these items will help restore freedom of movement in the area.”

4:09pm: Police are now lined up at top of steps to Parliament. They have pushed across the forecourt in front of the Beehive.

4:03pm: The fire has allowed the police to make significant ground. They are now halfway across Parliament’s lawn.

4:02pm: Huge bangs are coming as unknown objects explode in tents.

4:03pm: The fire has allowed the police to make significant ground. They are now halfway across Parliament’s lawn.

4:02pm: Huge bangs are coming as unknown objects explode in tents.

Police try to put out the fire with fire extinguishers. Photo: RNZ

4:02pm: Meanwhile Orcon says internet services are coming back online now, following a brief outage. It says customers still offline need to be patient and hold off contacting the call centre, which is experiencing an influx of calls.

3:56pm: Another tent is lit on fire and another protester puts it out with water saying “stop burning shit!”

3:54pm: There is also an incident around the pile of belongings, people getting punched and accused of stealing from it.

3:53pm: Some people are cheering and throwing things on the fire.

3:47pm: Police have issued another update saying they have now arrested 38 people since 6am today. They said about 30 vehicles, including large vehicles such as trucks and campervans, have been towed.

Parliament’s slide is on fire. Photo: RNZ

3:45pm: Protesters seen running back down Molesworth Street and a second explosion is heard.

3:43pm: Protesters saying gas bottles in tents and are urging people to move back, reporters report hearing explosion.

3:35: People are breaking tents to use as weapons, some have used the poles like javelins. Protesters are throwing wood, whilst others are telling them not to throw stuff at police.

3:29: About half of the lawn has been taken back by police and there’s a big pile of tents that have been ripped out. Protesters checking no one is in tents before police come through.

3:27: Police are pushing right up to the fence, the protesters are saying to storm Parliament. You can hear things breaking everywhere as people try to get their belongings out, one RNZ reporter says.

Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

3:23pm: Police have advanced a good 30 metres into the lawn ripping out tents as they go, removing barriers and signs. The main resistance still on Molesworth St, crowds are retreating on the lawn as police move forward.

3:20: RNZ reporters say police are making major ground now after a massive push.

3:19: A number of protesters are bringing their belongings out of parl grounds.

3:17: Protesters gathering glass bottles. Seems they are about to throw them at police.

3:13: A few protesters are asking others to retreat back to Parliament’s lawn. No one is immediately responding.

2:36pm: A cafe near Parliament is desperate for police to remove protesters from the area so its customers can return.

David Page, of Word of Mouth cafe and catering on Molesworth Street, says in recent weeks trade is down 80 percent.

The business closed today because the public couldn’t access the area while police attempted to clear the area.

But Page says it made some money from police, who bought coffees.

Page says some customers in recent days have been leaving money to pay for drinks for police officers. He’s not yet sure if the cafe will be able to open tomorrow.

2:45pm: RNZ reporters say that police are being sprayed with fire extinguishers near the Court of Appeal.

2:24pm: In case you missed it earlier, Police Commissioner Coster said earlier that police will support protesters to get out of Wellington if their car is towed.

Vehicles that have been seized and will not released immediately, or if it is believed they will be used again for further offending.

One person who spoke to RNZ said they would be homeless if their car was seized.

Coster says there is a process in place to make sure people who have been towed can leave Wellington.

2:17pm: Today’s action in Wellington is making international news, with Reuters reporting from the protest.

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