While what police and the Prime Minister called ‘shameful’ behavior on the grounds of Parliament appears to be causing some at the Wellington protest to rethink their stay, others are deflecting bad behavior with theories that deflect blame Some protestors.
An incident early on Tuesday morning saw a person driving a car into a police line, while three officers had to be treated in hospital after an unknown ‘pungent substance’ was thrown at them.
“This kind of behavior where there is an attempt – an intention to throw fecal matter at police personnel, and another substance which has resulted in three staff members being taken to hospital, is incredibly shameful and we will deal with this in a way affirmative,” Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Chambers said. .
But, while some on the grounds of Parliament have denounced the behavior, others are turning away from it.
There were hundreds of comments on protest-aligned social media sites that claimed dangerous or hostile actions were being carried out by “paid factories” and other government agents.
It was a claim that Chambers said had no basis.
A woman who did not want to be named told 1News bad behavior was being committed by people unrelated to the protest
“We know there are impostors, undercover agents, anything that tries to intimidate and scare our people,” she said.
A protest security guard called Brendan said he believed the car incident was a “simulation”.
“They actually staged someone to run against the police themselves so they could lead a team with riot shields,” he said. He could not provide any evidence to support his claim.
Disinformation researcher Byron C Clark said there were parallels between the rhetoric emerging from that protest and what was claimed during the US Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021.
At the time, Donald Trump and figures aligned with him suggested the Capitol storming was carried out by Antifa counter-protesters, despite overwhelming evidence that the rioters were Trump supporters.
“It allows the most extreme elements to justify what is happening, thus affirming that it is an outside actor. It leads some of the more moderate people to believe that maybe no one on their side is committing violence,” Clark said.
He said the emergence of such claims was not unexpected.
“Even before the protest convoy arrived in Wellington, on Telegram groups and Counterspin Media live streams they were saying if there was any violence it would be a false flag.
“They were preemptively spreading the idea that if anything violent happened, it wouldn’t be one of the protesters,” Clark said.
“The false flag conspiracy theory is a theory that has been around for some time. Alex Jones is a big promoter of this on his web Infowars. Every time there’s a mass shooting in the United States, he’s quick to pretend it’s a false flag.
“On some of these Telegram groups there is a conspiracy theory that the Christchurch shooting was also some kind of false flag. It’s a very common conspiracy theory and now we see this framework applied to things that are happening at the protest in Wellington.
On Tuesday, there were fewer protesters and vehicles on the streets surrounding Parliament than over the weekend.
Assistant Commissioner Chambers said some of the more moderate protesters were heading home.
“There is no doubt that some of those who have chosen to leave this protest have done so because they are concerned about what they are seeing there by a number of members of the protest group. They have chosen to return home peacefully because the cause that brought them here may have changed.