Less than a month after the Auckland riots, frustrations flared in the capital. The Unemployment Amendment Act of 1932, which was passed at the end of April increased the levy on income other than salaries and wages. It also established an "emergency charge" . A call for a return to old provisions was turned down by the government, and on May 10 1932 4000 relief workers marched on Parliament with their demands. Riots broke out after Gordon Coates, the Minister of Public Works, announced that the crowd would have to wait until the following day for a response from the government. An article from the Auckland Star on May 11 describes the event as ending "suddenly in an outburst of frenzied window smashing by a small band of hooligans".
Over two hundred windows were smashed and some stores looted before police and Specials gained control of the centre. The city remained guarded by specials for the rest of the night. According to the same article, 23 arrests were made on May 10, including some of theft.
The following day a crowd of 2000 gathered at a vacant lot on Cuba Street, after the Trades Hall was unable to hold all of the striking relief workers. According to an article in the Evening Post (shown on the right), stones and bricks were thrown at police after they restrained a Communist who was trying to address the meeting. As the crowd dispersed, many people were injured by the police and Specials who had drawn their batons. Despite opinions that the police had been overly brutal in dispersing the crowd, they were cleared of any blame.
The media conveyed the Wellington riots as being the outcome of the actions of "irresponsibles and Communists". Articles in the following week also drew attention to the idea that much of the crowd were spectators who had been drawn in by curiosity, while the people causing the uproar were the minority. An article in the Evening Post on May 12 wrote that, "it must be recognized that this is not a conflict between the unemployed and the government. It is an attempt by a deliberately mischievous and revolutionary section to use distress for the furtherance of its own evil objective".