New Zealand protesters have today joined thousands of Americans demonstrating against the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd.
In Wellington one person went as far as temporarily tying himself to the fence of the US Embassy following a vigil attended by around 500 people.
Earlier in the day an estimated 4000 people gathered in central Auckland to attend the Black Lives Matter March for Solidarity. The group travelled from Aotea Square to the US Consulate General on Customs St. Other demonstrations occurred in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
Very little social distancing occurred at any of the main protests, prompting concerns from deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Act leader David Seymour David Seymour and microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles about the risk of spreading Covid-19.
Despite constant calls from organisers for social distancing, people gathered close due to the sheer immensity of the crowd.
"Scenes of thousands of protesters shoulder to shoulder makes a mockery of the Government's Covid-19 restrictions and insults every New Zealander who's followed them," Seymour said.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declined to comment on the protests or on the death of George Floyd.
Follow live updates below:
7.35 - Social distancing concerns
Microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles is calling for anyone who attended protests today to self isolate for the next 14 days.
7.35 - Protester tied to Embassy
The man at Embassy has untied himself. Police said they were aware of the protest at the Embassy "but there's no issue with that at this stage".
7.20 - No social distancing
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says the protesters ignored social distancing and if authorities don't take action then we should move to level 1 tomorrow.
Police said in a statement just after 6pm they were aware of the planned events but not aware of any issues in relation to them.
6.50 - Protester
A Wellington protester has tied himself to the American Embassy to protest the killing of George Floyd. He says he insists on staying until he's removed.
5:50 - Tears shed
About 500 people have turned up outside Parliament.
Tears have been shed as names of American victims who had died because of racial injustice were read out.
"I can't breathe" and "Black Lives Matter" signs pepper the crowd.
Volunteer Billy Brownlie, 15, said she couldn't watch the whole video of former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin with his knee on the back of George Floyd's neck, but fellow volunteer Justin Felderhof, 16, had persevered to watch it, saying it was important to him to recognise what was happening.
"We're here to stand with the black communities in the US in solidarity," Felderhof said.
"We hear you. We stand with you."
Signs in front of Parliament for the vigil for victims of racial injustice.
5:45 - Wellington Vigil
Despite the rainy weather, dozens of people have already starting turning up to the vigil at Parliament in Wellington, scheduled to start at 6pm.
One of the organisers, Victoria University student Joanna Li, 20, said the demonstration was about giving space to African Americans to grieve before there would be further action to drive change.
Volunteers handed out a list of hundreds of names of Americans who have died due to racial injustice.
"It's needed," Li said when asked why the vigil was happening. "If you think it's not needed, you're not paying attention."
About 4000 people had signed up on Facebook to say they were coming, and Li said there was hand sanitiser, masks and gloves at all the entrances. Volunteers were also moving about to encourage people to keep one metre of physical distancing.
4:55 - It went well
Theresa, one of an estimated 4000 people who marched down Queen St, said the day was a success.
"I think it went really well in terms of the peacefulness of it and us coming together."
She hoped people would take the message that Black Lives Matter away with them and apply it throughout their daily lives.
Racism wasn't just an issue in America but many countries including New Zealand.
"I hoping that NZ really does put it to racist and says 'no more racism, we ain't got time for it'."
4:40 - Calls for social distancing
Despite constant calls from organisers for social distancing, people are gathered close, mostly due to the sheer immensity of the crowd.
The group have just reached the bottom of Queen St, where everyone is kneeling in front of the US consulate.
4:30 - Black lives matter
People say they are here in solidarity with protests across the globe, to condemn police violence.
The noise is deafening on Queen St as chants of "No justice, no peace!" and "Black lives matter" grow while the group moves towards the United States Consulate.
Rob Gaitau is at the protest with his two sons.
"We are here because when things like that happen over in the United States you need to speak out, in case it happens here."
4:15 - March down Auckland's Queen St begins
The march is starting to make its way down Queen St, with thousands chanting 'Black Lives Matter'.
3:45 - 2000 people gather in Auckland
Organisers estimate as many as 2000 people have assembled in Aotea Square, but the number is growing by the minute with streams more flowing through the central city streets.
Placards bearing slogans like Black Lives Matter and Trump Sucks can be seen.
Chants of "Black Lives Matter" ring out across the square, referencing the United States-based movement.
Many protesters are holding banners and signs. "Justice for Floyd", says one.
"Armsdownnz", read many, referring to the recent protest against the New Zealand Police trial of Armed Response Teams.
The square at one point went silent for a minute, to honour Floyd.
Many are wearing masks, which organisers asked people to do as well as to keep a safe distance from each other.
3:30 - hundreds hit the streets in Chch
Rain hasn't stopped more than 400 protesters showing up at the demonstration in Christchurch's Cathedral Square.
Protesters there are chanting, "I can't breathe - Black Lives Matter."
Emily Crawley, who's at the event in Christchurch, says there's a somber, respectful atmosphere. She says it's hard to tell just how many people are there, because most of them are spaced out.
Crawley says after the chant, organisers had a minute of silence - then they invited members of crowd to take turns standing and reading the names of US victims of police brutality.
3:00 -'The same white supremacy exists here in NZ'
Mazbou Q, a musician and organiser for the Auckland Black Lives Matter protest, said there were gatherings across New Zealand to show solidarity with the black community in the United States.
"We recognise what is going on in the United States is not just about George Floyd, but the ongoing persecution of the black community is an ongoing phenomenon. The same white supremacy which has led to disproportionate killings of black people in the US exists here in New Zealand.
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"We pride ourselves on being a national of empathy, kindness and love. But the silence from the Government and the media does not reflect that at all. In fact, it makes us complicit."
Protests in more than 30 US cities
Protests have been held in more than 30 cities across the US and throughout the world after a disturbing video surfaced showing bystanders pleading with a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, as he gasped for breath. Floyd died after the incident, the latest in a string of deaths of black men and women at the hands of US police.
Many protests in American cities have begun peacefully, but erupted into riots, with buildings being set on fire, and stores and businesses looted and vandalised, and thousands of police and National Guards brought in to combat the unrest.
In response to concerns raised around level 2 restrictions and social distancing, New Zealand protest organisers posted messages online to reassure everyone the rules will be followed.
They asked potential protesters to fill in an online register for contact tracing purposes, although physical registers will be handed out too. Hand sanitiser will be available, as well as marshalls to help keep the 1m distancing.
"Please be mindful of physical distancing and if you're arriving with a bubble, stick with that bubble. If you're unwell, please stay home. We're marching to save lives; this includes covid-19," Shalane Williams posted on Facebook.
"Be kind and respectful to one another. We'll have marshals who will guide you and ensure physical distancing is maintained. If you're asked to move away from other bubbles, please be respectful of the request. We need to care for each other and all our lives.
"Please work with us today and above all, let kindness and respect prevail."
Williams reiterated the protests were peaceful, and not to be hijacked by anyone planning to riot or be violent.
A spokeswoman for Police National Headquarters said staff were aware of the planned events and "we are looking to speak with organisers to remind them of the guidelines for holding gatherings under Alert Level 2 restrictions".
The event has been backed by celebrities, including mixed martial arts fighter Israel Adesanya, and choreographer and dancer Parris Goebel, who posted the event to her Instagram.
She said: "NZ stand up. If you are as frustrated and heartbroken as I am ... will you get up and march with us?"
University of Auckland microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles used Twitter to urge participants to take Covid-19 precautions - including not attending at all if they showed any symptoms.
The event was also intended to draw attention to "the militarisation of the New Zealand police", the organisers said in the Facebook event listing.
The police Armed Response Teams trials began last year in Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury, but serious questions have arisen about issues with the trials, and a lack of consultation before their launch.
They have been criticised by Māori leaders, who say institutional racism affects policing, and the mix is a serious risk when police are regularly armed.
The trials finished in April, but critics are concerned they could become permanent. Since the death of George Floyd the hashtag #ArmsDownNZ has trended on Twitter in New Zealand.
Emmy Rakete, Arms Down NZ organiser, said: "We've seen how America's cops act with firearms. We know New Zealand's cops engage in rampant racist discrimination against Māori and Pacific people.
"We must resist police militarisation or we will see American-style racist killings by the cops."
Police have been contacted for comment.
Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha has previously told RNZ the Armed Response Teams are a new iteration of the existing Armed Offenders Squad, and the difference is that they are immediately available and on patrol, so able to respond quicker - rather than on call.
"We are very much aware that there is a need to ensure we have the balance right between keeping our communities safe and the need to keep our staff safe."
- additional reporting RNZ