It would be wrong to suggest the anti-mandate protest on the grounds of Parliament House and Molesworth St in Central Wellington had overstayed its welcome — it was, to put it mildly, never welcome with anyone.
The fiery, spiteful ending yesterday was most unwelcome of all.
From day one, protesters spat abuse at anyone who came within cooee. Passers-by, including school children, were screamed at for wearing masks. Journalists attempting to gather views and present them to the public were sworn at and pushed. Parliamentary staff had their paths blocked and were called traitors.
Residents and workers were massively and, it seemed, intentionally inconvenienced from the moment the convoy hit the brakes in central Wellington, abandoning vehicles where they would be the greatest hindrance.
The mob changed in numbers over 23 days. At weekends, casual opportunists flowed into the tents to party and celebrate their vacuous lawlessness.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster had regularly talked about de-escalation and of the risks of people being hurt if he ordered officers to break up the encampment. By all accounts, his concern for the welfare of his officers, the public and Parliament, as well as the protesters was merited judging by the dreadful scenes as elements of the mob lit fires and threw anything that could be grabbed at the officers ordered to clear the area.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had earlier offered the demonstrators an out when she spoke about the potential for lifting mandates on February 21, a fortnight into the disruptions. A smart protest leadership might have pounced on that to declare the conversation was underway, claim some success and withdraw.
That didn't happen, as it appeared those doing the talking inside the protest tents had become enamoured with their own brief moment of attention and desired to prolong it.
The police operation to finally break up the three-week sit-in was as well-timed as could be. It was heartening to see some protesters taking the unsubtle hint and packing up as the police formed lines around the grounds.
From early on it was clear that there was a wide variety of people involved in the action. Some were genuinely concerned citizens who sympathised with the impositions being placed on others. These wore faces of sadness and disbelief amongst the riotous melee yesterday. There were others with different intentions, however. These people showed their colours in messages of hate, racism and violence.
Coster had repeated raised fears that this element was dangerous and their behaviour escalating. "We reached a stage where protest leaders were either unwilling or unable to effect change."
Any protest action is ultimately measured by what it achieves. This changed nothing. It began as an unwelcome presence and ended in aimless, condemnatory chaos.