x

Society

New Zealand’s PM Signals Harsher Stance on Vaccine Protest

February 14, 2022

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s prime minister on Monday said protesters who oppose coronavirus mandates were using “intimidation and harassment,” as authorities appeared to take a harsher stance toward the convoy of demonstrators that has disrupted the capital of Wellington for nearly a week.

Police initially let the protesters set up tents and camp on the grounds of New Zealand’s Parliament before arresting 122 people on Thursday and then backing off again. The size of the protest dropped to a few hundred last week but increased again to around 3,000 over the weekend.

Speaking with reporters, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern signaled the thinning patience of authorities.

“I very clearly have a view on the protesters and the way that they’ve conducted their protest because it has moved beyond sharing a view to intimidation and harassment of the people around central Wellington,” she said. “That cannot be tolerated.”

Parliament Speaker Trevor Mallard tried to make the protesters uncomfortable last week by turning on lawn sprinklers and blasting out decades-old Barry Manilow songs and the 1990s hit “Macarena” on a repeat loop.

Police on Monday told protesters to move their illegally parked vehicles as soon as possible, offering them alternative parking at a nearby stadium.

“Wellingtonians have the right to move freely and safely around the city so all roads being clear is a top priority,” said Superintendent Corrie Parnell, the Wellington district commander.

The protesters, who oppose coronavirus vaccine mandates and were inspired by similar protests in Canada, appear fairly well organized after trucking in portable toilets, crates of donated food, and bales of straw to lay down when the grass turned to mud.

Despite the arrests and scuffles with police last week, dozens of tents remain on Parliament’s grounds, with cars and trucks blocking surrounding streets. Protesters lined up on Monday for a breakfast of barbecued sausages and schnitzels after surviving a weekend of torrential rain.

Kacheeya Scarrow drove her van about 380 kilometers (235 miles) from the town of Taupo to join the camp out.

“All I want is the mandates lifted, and freedom of choice,” she said. “I’m not anti-vax, I’m not pro-vax. Everybody should have the right to choose what they want to do with their own body.”

Another protester, 70-year-old Joanna Plows, said the government had usurped the right “to choose whether or not we have medical intervention.”

New Zealand has mandated that certain workers get vaccinated against COVID-19, including teachers, doctors, nurses, police and military personnel. A vaccine pass is also required to enter most stores and restaurants.

The protests come just as New Zealand experiences its first widespread outbreak of COVID-19, after keeping its borders closed for much of the pandemic. Daily case numbers jumped to a new high of nearly 1,000 on Monday, up from about 200 per day just five days earlier.

However, not a single patient was in intensive care, thanks in part to a vaccination rate of 77% and what experts have described as the comparatively less severe symptoms of the omicron variant.

New Zealand was spared the worst of the pandemic after it closed its borders and implemented strict lockdowns, limiting the spread of the virus. The nation has reported just 53 virus deaths among its population of 5 million.

Ardern said the timing of the mass camp out couldn’t be worse.

“At the very point where we are seeing an increase in cases, and an increase in risk to the public health and wellbeing of New Zealand, they want to see removed the very measures that have kept us safe, well and alive,” she said.

 

RELATED

WASHINGTON — Jurors who will decide whether to convict Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four associates of seditious conspiracy resumed deliberations Monday in the high-stakes trial stemming from the U.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Starts to Erupt, Sending Ash Nearby (Video)

HONOLULU — Hawaii's Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano, has started to erupt for the first time in nearly four decades, prompting volcanic ash and debris to fall nearby, authorities said Monday.

NEW YORK — Days after flocking to stores on Black Friday, consumers are turning online for Cyber Monday to score more discounts on gifts and other items that have ballooned in price because of high inflation.

HOUSTON — More than 2 million people in the Houston area were under a boil order notice Monday after a power outage caused low pressure at a water purification plant, officials said.

For Ryan Decker, surviving the holiday shopping season is all about planning ahead.

ATHENS - Greece is rapidly emerging as the key gateway for natural gas in Southeastern Europe, with projects such as the TAP pipeline, the LNG terminal in Revythoussa and the FSRUs in Alexandroupolis, Environment and Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas said on Monday, addressing the voria.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.