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New Zealand police arrest 120 anti-COVID-19 mandate protesters

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Police and anti-COVID-19 mandate protesters clashed outside of New Zealand's Parliament on Thursday, resulting in some 120 people arrested, authorities said.

The arrests were conducted as protesters refused to leave the parliament grounds, which were closed to the public earlier in the day.

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Those arrested have been charge with trespass and obstruction, the New Zealand Police said in a statement.

The authorities said despite the grounds' closure some protesters refused to leave and attempted to breach the police cordon, and officers twice deployed pepper spray after protesters tried to pull them into the crowd.

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"They were not seriously injured, however such behavior is unacceptable," New Zealand Police said. "Anyone threatening the safety of police staff or the public should expect to face enforcement action."

More than 100 additional police were called into the district on Thursday as protests at the Parliament have stretched into their third day.

Inspired by Canada's so-called Freedom Convoy of truckers who have been protesting against COVID-19 mandates in the northern North American nation, the Convoy 2022 NZ began Sunday for Wellington, where they convened on Tuesday and encamped themselves in demand for the end of mandates and against media censorship.

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Wellington District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell told police that the removal of protesters could take days.

"This is unprecedented for New Zealand," Parnell said, according to 1News. "We've never had an occupation of this scale and certainly with tents on Parliament grounds, so some degree uncharted waters."

Police said parking wardens have begun to issue infringement notices to vehicles unlawfully blocking streets around Parliament and will be seeking to have them towed shortly.

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"Police will continue to have a presence at Parliament into the night and as long as necessary to ensure public safety," New Zealand Police said.

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