The New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) warned Wednesday it was poised to deploy “Defence Force assets” to Wellington to disband an anti-coronavirus vaccine mandate protest near New Zealand’s parliament building after the rally pushed into its ninth consecutive day.
“An NZDF spokeswoman said discussions on the possible deployment of Defence Force assets remain ongoing, and no decisions have been made,” New Zealand’s Stuff news site reported on February 16.
“Four Defence Force vehicles have arrived in Wellington and are on standby should they be required,” the NZDF spokeswoman confirmed.
“They are being pre-positioned should they be required, but as stated no decisions have been made about their use to assist the towing operation,” she told reporters.
“[The] four army vehicles travelled to Wellington from Linton and Waiouru on Wednesday,” according to Stuff.
The New Zealand Police issued an ultimatum to anti-vaccine mandate protesters gathered outside New Zealand’s parliament building on February 15 warning them to move their motor vehicles — many of which are blocking roads around the legislative center as part of the demonstration — or face the towing and seizure of their automobiles. The rally’s participants largely ignored this demand by the police force — which is controlled by New Zealand’s federal government — and continued to gather by the hundreds near the parliament building’s grounds on February 16.
The rally’s organizers have said they were inspired to protest New Zealand’s coronavirus vaccine mandate after witnessing Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” demonstration, which similarly calls for an end to pandemic-related vaccine mandates and restrictions on movement in Canada. The “Freedom Convoy” launched in late January and remains ongoing across Canada. It consists of thousands of commercial truckers purposefully blocking strategic stretches of Canadian trade routes to draw attention to the matter.
“Inspired by truckers’ demonstrations in Canada, protesters have blocked several roads around Wellington’s ‘Beehive’ parliament for nine days with trucks, vans and motorcycles, and camped out on the lawns in front of the distinctive building,” Reuters observed on Wednesday.
“There remains about 450 vehicles parked illegally, and the number continues to grow,” Stuff reported of the protest’s vehicle blockade on February 16.
The news site said Wednesday the rally has counted “several hundred [participants] at any given time” since it launched on February 7, adding that it “peaked” with 3000 demonstrators on its strongest day.
“The protest started as a stand against COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] vaccine mandates but those demonstrators have been joined by groups calling for an end to pandemic restrictions as well some drawing attention to other social issues like censorship and rights of the ethnic Maori community,” Reuters noted on February 16.