Marauding students surround police

Police and students clash at the University of Auckland yesterday after the protest got out of control. Photo / Richard Robinson
Police and students clash at the University of Auckland yesterday after the protest got out of control. Photo / Richard Robinson

Student protesters chanted "we've got the power" yesterday as they surrounded Auckland central police station after earlier shutting down Queen St.

Police stayed inside as protesters knocked on the station's doors and chanted "free all political prisoners". In all, 43 protesters were arrested. The police eventually gave up trying to control the spontaneous march through the central city.

Earlier attempts by police to corral the protesters had led to skirmishes near Symonds St. A group of officers became separated as they tried to make arrests and wrestled on the ground with protesters as jeering crowds surged around them. As a university lecturer appealed for calm other protesters threw shoes at police and tipped off their hats.

After marching through Albert Park the students shut down parts of Queen St twice during peak hour traffic. Several hundred ran through Mid City mall to evade police, who then backed off for the rest of the protest. Students pushed their way into the lobby of SkyCity casino, chanting "f*** the casino", as staff rushed to steer them back outside.

The march culminated with protesters sitting crosslegged on Queen St across from the Town Hall. Traffic was blocked for 30 minutes as protesters chanted "Bill English, we're all Greeks".

The Finance Minister last week brushed off earlier student protests by saying they "need some Greeks to show them how to do it".

The Blockade the Budget protests come after the Government outlined changes to student loans including increasing repayment rates. And allowance eligibility has been tightened - including cutting allowances altogether for people doing post-graduate study.

Protester Nathalie Jaques, a third year arts student, said her plans for postgraduate study would be affected by the Government cuts.

"We were planning on having a peaceful protest ... we were going to rise above [Mr English's] incitement to riot.

"But now the police have done it for us. The police blocked the street ... they have being attacking people. They have been the destructive party in all of this."

Last night police issued a brief statement on their website about the protest but would not comment further.

- NZ Herald

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