TPPA protests shut down Auckland intersections to 'send a message'
No arrests were made during the large-scale, vocal protests against the TPPA signing in Auckland's CBD, despite protestors jumping in front of cars and blocking traffic, police said.
A 10,000-strong crowd marched through Auckland's streets on Thursday as 12 ministers from across the world met at SkyCity to sign the international trade agreement.
Superintendent Richard Chambers was the operation commander for the several hundred-strong police team.
Chambers said police were well prepared for the day and that widespread traffic disruption was not a surprise.
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It had been a "successful" day for police, he said: "The fact that we didn't have arrests at this point is one successful factor for us."
However, he was disappointed protestors chose to put themselves at harm and disrupt traffic.
"They put themselves at risk, they compromised their safety, they compromised the safety of innocent people.
"There were attempts to run in front of vehicles, there were attempts to get onto the motorway, and I'm disappointed in those people for that behaviour.
"That has disrupted the flow of traffic and people going about their lawful business in the city today," he said.
Anti-TPPA protesters had cleared most of Auckland's streets by the time the city's workforce prepared for the journey home.
Earlier, protesters blocked several of the city's key roads but Auckland Transport tweeted at about 3pm that most of the protesters had dispersed and that traffic was as "close to normal in inner-city as possible at this time".
"The intersection of Queen Street and Victoria Street remained blocked at 3pm. A large contingent of protesters remained outside the SkyCity convention centre on Federal Street, where the agreement was signed."
Protesters clutched flags, placards, drums and speakers, shouted chants and blocked off entire city blocks.
The demonstrations were loud and passionate and intent on being noticed.
And while the bulk of attendees were peaceful and happy to stick to the streets already cordoned off, others made their own blockades.
"Closing down central Auckland is a pretty f****** epic way of sending a message," one woman from protest group Real Choice shouted through her megaphone.
Police warned Auckland motorists to expect delays in the central city and watch out for people jumping in front of cars.
The group had initially plotted to blockade the entrance to the SkyCity convention centre, but instead turned their attention to closing major streets and motorways.
They had "taken" eight intersections by midday including a shortlived attempt at blocking access to the Auckland Harbour Bridge onramp at Fanshawe St, group spokeswoman Lizzie Sullivan, 26, said.
She said she wasn't willing want to disclose the strategy or tactics they used but said a lot of planning had gone into the day to "make a stand".
"We just feel we've had to do this as a way to get a message across."
She said they were trying to set up a TPPA-free zone in the city.
And she defended the traffic disruption as a "small inconvenience" that "people had been warned about".
Meanwhile, Peter Vosper made himself conspicuous by climbing a dangerously high tee-pee-styled stand made of bamboo poles.
He scaled the shaky structure at midday at the intersection of Albert St and Wellesley St while his friends held the poles in place.
It was one of two "tripod" structures set up and Voster said he was willing to sit up there all day, or until someone came to replace him.
Other ground-level protesters made sure they were noticed by singing, repeatedly chanting and occasionally shouting swear words.
Some set up base all day at the convention centre entrance while most eventually merged into the large swell of crowd that marched down Queen St and held speeches at Britomart.
The crowd later returned to SkyCity, dwindling to around 70 by 4pm.