National leader Todd Muller has suggested Black Lives Matter protesters in New Zealand may have been confused about the alert level 2 rules because of conflicting commentary from the Government.
Despite the current cap of 100 people at gatherings, thousands marched in Auckland on Monday in solidarity with African-American man George Floyd who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck during an arrest.
Because the protest broke the current gathering rules, ACT leader David Seymour described it as a "slap in the face" of organisations that have followed the regulations and lost business.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has been calling for level 2 restrictions to be reduced as soon as possible, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has signalled level 1 could come as early as next week, insisting it had nothing to do with pressure from Peters.
Muller is now implying that the Government has been sending mixed messages to the public about the rules, and that it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Black Lives Matter protesters thought they could congregate.
"Because there is so much confusion, because the Deputy Prime Minister is telling you 'let's return back to normal', I can totally understand them interpreting that as essentially a signal to come together and protest on an issue that they felt very passionate about," he told reporters.
Muller said he thinks there is always pockets of racism in communities, including in New Zealand.
"We have to be able to acknowledge that, be comfortable to have hard conversations about that, and reflect on what we need to do to ensure that we stamp it out."
The Prime Minister said she condones the message of the protesters but not the action.
"They have breached the rules. It was not right. New Zealanders have given up a lot and I need to keep asking the team of 5 million to stay together so we can reach the finish line," she said on Tuesday.
"The Deputy Prime Minister has a view and so do other members around the Cabinet table who I always seek for consensus and balance in these decisions.
"But ultimately, what is driving the decision to consider on 8 June that move to level 1 is the data, the cases, and that has to be what drives our decision-making."
Police Minister Stuart Nash said he doesn't want to stop people protesting but said the Black Lives Matter march was "a clear breach to the rules" around level 2.
He said he understands police worked with the organisers of the protest beforehand "to really highlight the rules around alert level 2" and said it's up to the police if the organisers face consequences.
"I think they were irresponsible in what they did," Nash said.
"The police have always taken a very graduated response because the last thing they want to do is go in with a very heavy hammer and arrest straight away and ask questions later.
"They always try to educate, encourage before they would seek to warn and then take action."