Students occupy Queen Street

By Cassandra Mason, Herald Online staff

Police and students clash at the University of Auckland after a peaceful protest got out of control, resulting in arrests and protesters taking to the streets of Auckland. Photo / Richard Robinson
Police and students clash at the University of Auckland after a peaceful protest got out of control, resulting in arrests and protesters taking to the streets of Auckland. Photo / Richard Robinson

The student protest that brought the main street of New Zealand's biggest city to a standstill is over.

Students angry over cuts to the education system marched around the central city early this evening after 43 were arrested on Symonds Street, but the protest dissolved shortly after 6.30pm.

An estimated 300 protesters turned out this afternoon to block Symonds St outside Auckland University in a follow-up to last week's "Blockade the Budget' rally.

Protestors then broke through a police cordon and headed through Albert Park towards Queen Street. Around 200 students then sat down across the intersection of Queen and Victoria Streets chanting "John Key's a millionaire, that's why he doesn't care".

Traffic came to a standstill with cars and buses honking their horns at the students to move.

One driver nudged his car out into the crowd at the intersection of Victoria and Queen Streets yelling "stupid socialists, dumb communists" at the students.

He told them "I've got a f***ing living to make, I had to pay fees too and now I have to work to pay them off."

A student yelled back at him "This is what fascism looks like!"

Bystander Justin, who witnessed the altercation, said: "There are ways to be political and blocking other people is not one of them.

"The whole ideology infuriates me, even though they've got some valid points, their ideology is flawed.

"Anything that doesn't inconvenience other people would be better, they're disguising their selfish naivety as noble."

Superintendent Mike Clement said there had been 43 arrests so far.

A police northern communications spokesman said "We're managing it".

Students then marched to the Auckland Central Police Station to demand the release of their peers.

Earlier, students said some of their number had clothes ripped as they were dragged away by police, during the latest protest in Auckland over tertiary education cuts.

Protestor Genevieve Connell said students had planned a peaceful 'teach in' but police officers jostled them, pulled students off the road and twisted their arms.

She said she had seen one girl with her tights ripped and a number of people had been hurt.

"It's pretty shocking.''

Another student said her brother had been dragged across the road - head against the "concrete''.

"There's been nothing but peace from us and nothing but contempt from them,'' said a Ph.D student and tutor who did not want to be identified.

Senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Campbell Jones, said police had hit and dragged a number of students.

Mr Jones delivered a lecture at the protest, reading Plato to the students just before police broke up the crowd.

"What they're protesting today is a disgraceful political decision.

"The elite will have education and others won't,'' he said.

Another protestor said the forceful police action was unwarranted.

It had escalated the situation and strengthened the protester's resolve, he said. "This is not containment anymore.''

- HERALD ONLINE

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