Covid-19 NZ: Jacinda Ardern says protest outside Parliament not representative of 'vast bulk' of Kiwis

STUFF
Protesters have congregated on Parliament grounds in Wellington.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says vaccination protesters outside Parliament were not representative of the “vast bulk” of Kiwis.

Thousands of protesters streamed onto Parliament's forecourt on Tuesday to protest against the Covid-19 vaccination campaign and in particular mandates that will force many employees to get the vaccine if they wish to keep their job.

Many carried signs accusing the media and Ardern of corruption or being a communist, and there were loud demands for her and other politicians to come out and face the crowds.

Ardern said most Kiwis did not agree with the protesters, but they had a right to protest.

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“What we saw today was not representative of the vast bulk of New Zealanders. And so actually my message would be to them to say ‘Thank you – thank you for being vaccinated. Thank you for doing what it takes to look after one another. What we say today wasn’t representative of you and New Zealand.’”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the protesters were not representative.
Ricky Wilson/Stuff
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the protesters were not representative.

“It is a place where of course people are able to freely protest and we value that about our democracy. That does not mean what we saw here today was in any way representative.”

She said she could hear the protest from her office, as Parliament generally provided protesters with microphones. She did not consider going out to speak to them.

Indeed, no politicians went out to see or address the protesters.

Some of the protesters in Wellington on Tuesday.
KEVIN STENT
Some of the protesters in Wellington on Tuesday.

In online messages planning the protest there were violent threats made towards Ardern. Tennis balls thrown by the protesters featured violent messages about Government ministers, including a specific death threat towards the Prime Minister.

Ardern said she saw a “slice” of violent messages towards her on social media but she again did not think that was very representative.

“We’re at over 89 per cent of eligible New Zealanders being at first dose of Pfizer. We’re on a road to be able to open up more and have a bit more freedom back, and it’s been a tough duty, but I think they can see that what we have done has been on behalf of everyone.”

National leader Judith Collins said people had a right to protest but she could understand why Parliament had taken security around the protest so seriously, given the violent messages about Ardern on social media.

Thousands of protesters arrived on Parliament’s forecourt.
ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff
Thousands of protesters arrived on Parliament’s forecourt.

“Some of the messages were quite violent and I expect that Parliament has taken those into account.”

Speaker Trevor Mallard, who entered the House in 1984, said he had never seen Parliament as locked down as it was on Tuesday – with many doors out of use and gates shut.

Collins said there was a variety of messages at the protest.

“The vast majority of those protesters were there for very peaceful purposes and are not inciting any hatred or violence,” Collins said.

“I think there was quite a lot of anti-vaccination protests, but also quite a lot of anti-Government protest.”

Murray Atkins told Stuff he travelled down from Gisborne to attend the protest as he was about to lose his job as a driving instructor because of the vaccine mandate.

He did not believe the vaccine was safe and said it should be his choice whether to take it.