IPCA receives more than 1600 complaints over Parliament occupation; fire association says use of fire hoses by police

Police clash with protesters as the occupation of Parliament's grounds entered its final hours.
Braden Fastier/Stuff

Police clash with protesters as the occupation of Parliament’s grounds entered its final hours.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) received more than 1600 complaints about police behavior throughout the 23 days of the anti-mandate occupation on the doorstep of Parliament.

IPCA chair Judge Colin Doherty said some were related to specific incidents, while the majority were from people unhappy with police tactics.

“We have received approximately 200 complaints about the events yesterday, on top of approximately 1400 received in February after police arrested a large number of protesters,” he said on Thursday.

With the occupation over, Judge Doherty said the authority was in preliminary discussions about how it would deal with the significant amount of complaints, and whether it would deal with them individually, or investigate police’s response as a whole.

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Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers said on Thursday the force used by police was “necessary and proportionate to the situation that was in front of them”.

This comes as a union representing firefighters is calling for an independent inquiry into why police officers used fire hoses on protesters when clearing the Parliamentary occupation.

Police clash with protesters as they remove tents and camping equipment from the occupation site on day 23 of the Anti-Mandate protests at Parliament in Wellington.

Braden Fastier/Stuff

Police clash with protesters as they remove tents and camping equipment from the occupation site on day 23 of the Anti-Mandate protests at Parliament in Wellington.

In a statement on Thursday, the New Zealand Professional Firefighters’ Union said “firefighters should never be used as part of police operations or enforcement”.

On Wednesday, hoses were “commandeered by police” to be used in and around the Parliament grounds.

They blamed the situation on a lack of procedures established between the agencies.

“The NZPFU will be seeking Government assurances to ensure that Police are appropriately resourced to undertake escalating policing operations, and that there are clear inter-agency policies in place, so that the misuse of firefighters and FENZ resources never occurs again,” the statement said .

Fires were lit by protesters around the bases of old pohutukawa trees on the edge of Parliament's grounds during the riot on Wednesday.

BRADEN FASTIER / STUFF/Stuff

Fires were lit by protesters around the bases of old pohutukawa trees on the edge of Parliament’s grounds during the riot on Wednesday.

District Manager Nick Pyatt confirmed Fire and Emergency responded to a number of fires on Parliament grounds on Wednesday afternoon, along with a hazmat truck should decontamination be required.

At about 3pm on Wednesday afternoon, police moved en masse into Parliament grounds, in an aggressive effort to retake the area that’s been occupied by protesters for more than three weeks.

As police advanced through Parliament grounds, tearing down tents and urging remaining protesters to leave, a fire broke out in the middle of Parliament lawn, fueled by protesters throwing camping gear and rubbish into the flames.

Protesters threw anything they could get their hands on into the fires.

Jericho Rock-Archer/Stuff

Protesters threw anything they could get their hands on into the fires.

Eventually, a fire truck arrived at Molesworth St, next to Parliament ground, but the remaining police blockade and the ongoing hostility made it a more complicated operation for Fire and Emergency NZ.

“We commend and support the professionalism of our members who were put in an untenable situation and acted under orders and instructions that were beyond their control,” the union’s statement said.

Police said at the time fires were contained by 4.50pm, and there were no reports of injury.

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