Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Pedestrianise the government precinct

One of the big concerns about the anti-vaxx / pro-Nazi occupation of Thorndon is the consequences it will have for future protests at Parliament. Trevor Mallard reportedly wants to lock Parliament away behind a giant fence, which will be a tragedy both for our democracy, and for the ordinary everyday use of the space by Wellingtonians. But writing in Stuff, Henry Cooke has a better idea: the main problems of the occupation - sustained disruption and harassment - stem from their ability to claim and occupy so much space and turn by parking a car on top of it. So the answer seems to be to stop people doing that, and block the cars, not the people:

Unlike people, vehicles are relatively easy to stop. There should probably not be an easy way for folks to drive onto the cenotaph that sits just below the Beehive. Parliament has already installed retractable bollards at its vehicle entrances after truck-based terror attacks in Europe. It would make some sense – if the council and local residents were fine with it – to install similar bollards on surrounding streets, only activating them if there was another threat of a serious vehicle-based blockade.

This would make much more sense than a fence, and would stop the real threats of these kinds of blockades without limiting the freedom to assemble and move freely around Parliament grounds. We shouldn’t give that right up so freely – to the protesters, or to the state.

And this isn't even that much of an imposition. Every march to Parliament already requires traffic management and temporary street closures anyway, so this would simply involving installing permanent infrastructure to enable that. Alternatively, Wellington is already planning to become a pedestrian city, and those plans could be extended to the government precinct to create a permanent pedestrian zone around Parliament. A place for people, not cars. A place that would actually be nice (though actually, its pretty nice already).

But they'll probably just build a fence instead.