Former Green Party candidate and climate change activist Luke Wijohn has filmed police threatening him with arrest after he came across a group of officers pinning a man to the ground in Wellington.
Wijohn was heading to pick up his girlfriend from work at the supermarket on Friday night when he heard a man scream in pain, he said on Twitter Saturday morning.
The first video Wijohn posted showed a group of seven policemen, two of them pinning a man face down on the ground.
"I kept my distance (in fact kept having to ask the cops to social distance from me). I was wearing a mask," his post had said.
A man's voice can be heard saying several times, "Get the f*** off me."
At this point in the video the officers noticed they were being filmed. Three came towards the camera at some speed and asked for Wijohn's personal details "under the Health Act".
Wijohn retreats 10 to 20 metres as the officers advance towards him.
In a second video, a police officer was heard asking him why he was out, told him to go home and "If you fail to comply with the instructions, you'll be arrested".
"You were getting a video which is not an essential thing to be doing," one female officer says.
"You need to supply us with your details. As soon as you give us your details we'll leave you on our merry way."
Another male officer then says while moving forward again: "At this stage mate I'm warning you for obstruction, okay. At this stage you are stopping us from doing our job and enforcing the Covid lockdown. So you are required to give me your details."
Wijohn then says, "I am going for my legal daily walk to pick up my girlfriend because she's just finished being an essential service worker and I don't want her walking home at 10pm.
"I'm on one walk, I've only been on one walk today."
After explaining himself further Wijohn says: "I just heard someone scream so I walked over and it looked like someone was on his neck, so ..."
Wellington District police Inspector Wade Jennings said the incident occurred as they responded to a report about 10pm on Friday of a man allegedly kicking and punching parked vehicles in the vicinity of Wakefield St in central Wellington.
"During the incident police officers noted a member of the public had stopped to film the arrest," Jennings said.
"With alert level 4 restrictions in place, police staff questioned the member of the public about his actions to determine if his movements were essential, including a request for his identifying details."
Wijohn's posts and two videos of the incident were deleted late this afternoon.
"I decided to film because I thought that decreased the chances of them seriously injuring the man," Wijohn said in a subsequent tweet.
He said, in his view it seemed like police were using the Health Act to stop him from exercising his right to film, even though he was following alert level 4 rules.
"It's really ... worrying that the police seem to be capitalising on the Covid laws to remove people (from) exercising their rights. Eroding that trust."
Jennings confirmed a member of the public had filmed an arrest of a man in central Wellington at 10pm on Friday night.
"Police located and initially spoke to the man on Wakefield St before he ran off in the direction of Cable St. At this time police also identified he was in breach of court-ordered bail conditions," Jennings said.
"Police followed the man who stopped near Waitangi Park and then allegedly turned towards police and threatened to assault them."
Jennings said police had arrested a man for disorderly behaviour, who then allegedly assaulted a police officer during the arrest. The 29-year-old man was charged in the Wellington District Court today.
"As these matters are before the court, police have no further comment in relation to them."
Jennings added in response to the officers response to Wijohn's filming that: "The Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 allows police, as enforcement officers, to direct a person to provide identifying information."
Wijohn did not respond to the Herald's queries. The 19-year-old stood as the Green Party's candidate in Mt Albert in the 2020 general elections, and was the organiser of the School Strike 4 Climate marches as a teenager.
His Twitter post had hundreds of comments and retweets before it was deleted, many of them supportive.