The end: How Dunedin City Council waited out the anti-warrant protest

The peaceful end to the country’s longest anti-mandate occupation was a validation of council’s patience, said Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins.

The tents were taken down and the fire put out, marking the end of a 60-day occupation of the Octagon.

This arrived in time for the council deadline of Monday at noon.

Hawkins thanked the protesters for leaving the Octagon, as well as the police for working alongside the council to “defuse the situation”.

READ MORE:
* Anti-warrant protesters must leave Christchurch public park by Thursday morning
* Invercargill is the latest in a series of towns to host an anti-warrant camp
* Third fire of anti-warrant protesters extinguished in central Dunedin

By early March, as seen in the photo above, a few more tents had arrived.  The occupation would continue to grow.

Hamish McNeilly / Stuff

By early March, as seen in the photo above, a few more tents had arrived. The occupation would continue to expand.

The Council had been patient over the past two months, respecting their right to protest.

By mid-morning Monday, all of the tents, sofas and makeshift walls had disappeared from the Octagon lawn, with only a handful of protesters remaining at their signs.

Ashes from an extinguished brazier – one of the last pieces of equipment to be put away – were shoveled into a container and moistened.

Hawkins said the protest effectively ended when the government announced the end of the mandate and requirements to pass vaccines: “it becomes more difficult to justify an ongoing occupation in this context.”

Protesters were then told to move on and repeatedly warned of the trespassing deadline, he said.

The Dunedin Octagon lawn after the end of a 60 day occupation.

Hamish McNeilly / Stuff

The Dunedin Octagon lawn after the end of a 60 day occupation.

He was relieved that the protest ended the way it did, and it was a validation by the council’s patience in the face of the occupation.

“We haven’t had the degree of tension or nastiness that we’ve seen in other parts of the country.”

However, taxpayers would have to bear the cost of repairing the turf, which was yet to be determined, and it would be “too adversarial” to expect protesters to pay.

“What we need to focus on is healing the divisions that have opened up in the community over these kinds of issues rather than risking and entrenching them further.”

It comes as several media outlets were swore at, yelled at and had food thrown at them by protesters on Monday morning.

Arthur Taylor points to the upside-down New Zealand flags, one of the few remaining marks from Monday morning's protest.

Hamish McNeilly / Stuff

Arthur Taylor points to the upside-down New Zealand flags, one of the few remaining marks from Monday morning’s protest.

On Thursday April 7, protesters involved in the anti-mandate occupation in Dunedin – which lasted 37 days longer than Wellington – were given an ultimatum: leave Monday noon or face intrusion.

Arthur Taylor, spokesman and legal adviser for the Dunedin protesters, said Thing the decision to end the demonstration was taken on Saturday.

There was a ‘general feeling around the public’ that the protest had to end, but many people involved in the protest wanted to stay, he said.

“They saw what happened in Wellington…we do things a little differently here in Dunedin.”

Hamish McNeilly / Stuff

The end of the anti-warrant protest in the Octagon in Dunedin, with spokesman Arthur Taylor.

Protesters did not want the violence to play out in the city center, which could undo some of the gains they had made over the past two months, he said.

Taylor said he was impressed with the community’s response to the protest and that it achieved its goals.

“Not only that, but the police told me that the crime rate in the central city/Octagon area has gone down, just by our presence. ”

By April more tents had joined the group and makeshift walls had been erected.

Hamish McNeilly / Stuff

By April more tents had joined the group and makeshift walls had been erected.

In the April 7 letter to protesters, Sandy Graham, the chief executive of Dunedin City Council said that while they have the right to protest, pitching tents, lighting fires and erecting signs were offenses under the Reserves Act and violated local bylaws. .

The protesters had previously been asked to leave by council staff but refused.

The occupation began on February 11 in solidarity with the Freedom Convoy which headed for the then occupied Parliament Grounds in Wellington.

The plastic chairs on the Octagon lawn were the last items to be removed from the occupation.

Hamish McNeilly / Stuff

The plastic chairs on the Octagon lawn were the last items to be removed from the occupation.

Unlike its northern counterpart, the occupation’s population was constant. Other tents were erected in February and March, but the number of people sleeping appears to be less than a dozen.

In late March, makeshift walls became a permanent feature of the occupation. The sheltered public stage area was hidden from view from the street with pallets and used as a private performance space or a sofa-laden turret.

During the night, protesters could be seen by a lit fire, appearing to monitor the site.

Comments are closed.