Videos from inside the anti-mandate protest show protesters are responsible for starting the first fire on Parliament's grounds, not police as many demonstrators claimed.
The anti-mandate protesters are doing everything they can to distance themselves from the chaos that erupted yesterday.
Violence flared as police moved in to remove protesters' tents and vehicles in a bid to return the space to Wellingtonians after 23 days of occupation. Many protesters refused to leave, despite being warned they were trespassing and may be arrested if they remained. Instead, a large number of them took to anarchy, lighting fires, tearing up pavements and throwing bricks at officers, while police have also been accused of using violence.
Despite the onslaught, police managed to take the grounds back by the end of the day.
In response to criticism over their actions, many protest leaders tried to suggest police or Antifa had actually started the fires, not protesters.
Chantelle Baker was among them, suggesting police had accidentally knocked over a generator to start the fire. Baker also attempted to blame Antifa in a separate social media post.
Antifa is a left-wing anti-fascist and anti-racist political movement which started in the United States and has since spread to other countries.
Protesters have been sharing an image appearing to show Antifa New Zealand encouraging violence and destruction. But the Facebook page shown in the picture appears to be a spoof page.
The page hasn't been active since 2018 but in a previous post, the page calls for all Santas in New Zealand to wear women's clothes, calling into question its legitimacy. It's common practice among overseas far-right groups to pose as Antifa and call for violence.
Video footage from inside the protest also proves protesters started the fires, not police. In the footage, two men walk into a tent, place something inside then lean down next to it and set it on fire.
As the tent goes up in flames the men throw another nearby tent onto it.
Police are standing metres away at this point. Footage from several other live streams, including Baker's, have also disproven the claims.
Another stream shows the closest police officers are several metres away when the fire starts.
A protester in a ski mask can be seen standing right beside the tent when the fire starts and throwing a wooden pallet onto it.
The footage shows a police officer trying to extinguish the fire from a distance as protesters continue to throw chairs and other tents into it. As the fire gets more out of control police move closer to try and extinguish it. Protesters continue throwing things onto the fire as it grows more and more out of control.
There is also plenty of footage showing protesters lighting other fires afterwards.
One social media video shows two men starting a fire using twigs and wooden pallets. Another shows a woman trying to light a bush on fire.
Another shows a man grabbing a burning item out of an already lit fire and putting it on a nearby tent.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told AM protesters lit several fires throughout the afternoon.
"What I saw very clearly was a number of people adding fuel to that fire and that included gas bottles, it included petrol. So we saw a number of explosions occurring in the mix of it, and then subsequent to that we saw several fires deliberately lit so without a doubt there were people setting fires there."
Protesters were also caught on camera throwing bricks dug up from the footpath and other items at police.
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