WELLINGTON: About 2,000 protesters upset with the government’s response to the pandemic converged on Tuesday New Zealandit is Parliament – but there has been no repeat of the occupation six months ago in which protesters camped out on Parliament grounds for more than three weeks.
Many protesters said they had no intention of trying to stay. And police made sure a repeat was unlikely by closing streets, erecting barricades and banning protesters from bringing structures onto Parliament grounds.
The previous protest caused major disruption in the capital and ended in chaos as retreating protesters set fire to tents and threw rocks at police.
This time there was also a counter-protest, with several hundred people gathering outside Parliament as the main march entered the field. Both parties shouted insults but a line of police physically separated them.
The previous protest had been more heavily focused on opposing COVID-19 vaccination mandates.
The New Zealand government initially required health workers, teachers, police, firefighters and soldiers to be vaccinated. But he has since removed most of those mandates, except for health workers and a few others. It also removed requirements that people must be vaccinated to visit shops and bars.
Tuesday’s protest was as much about continuing dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the crisis as it was about current rules, including requiring people to wear masks in shops.
protester Carmen Page said people who had not been vaccinated face continued discrimination and people have lost their jobs and homes as a result of the warrants, which she says amounts to excessive government interference.
“We’re not here to be vetted,” Page said. “We just want to live our lives freely. We want to work where we want to work, without discrimination.
At the counter-demonstration, Lynne Maugham said she and her husband had extended their stay in the capital to attend.
“I have nothing but respect for the mandates, for the vaccinations, for the way the health providers have handled all of this,” she said.
Maugham said the government hadn’t done everything perfectly but had done a good job overall. “There is no plan to handle a pandemic,” she said.
Like many protesters opposed to mandates and actions of other governments, Mania Hungahunga was part of a group called The Freedom & Rights Coalition and was a member of Destiny Church.
Hungahunga said every New Zealander has been negatively affected by the mandates. He said he had traveled from Auckland to protest but did not anticipate an occupation.
“We’re just here for the day, a peaceful day, just to get our message out to the public and the people of Wellington,” he said.
Many protesters said they hoped Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would be eliminated in next year’s election. Protest leader Brian Tamaki told the crowd he was creating a new political party to contest the election.
Authorities said there were no initial reports of violence or other problems at the protests.

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