Hordes of vehicles blocked streets around New Zealand’s Parliament on Tuesday, in a protest mirroring others building around the world demanding an end to coronavirus restrictions and vaccine mandates.
An estimated “hundreds” to over a “thousand” vehicles have surged into the capital of Wellington with authorities reluctant to move them on or arrest them due to fears about the “safety” of their “staff.”
New Zealand’s leftist Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declined to meet with the convoy, saying she is too “busy” to meet her opponents.
Vehicles in the convoy included cars, trucks and motorbikes and displayed signs such as “Jabcinda we know you sold your soul to the devil”, “Stop the mandate #Freedom” and “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful.”
A multitude of flags were also spotted alongside the NZ flags brandished by the protestors including the United States’ flag, former President Donald Trump-themed flags, and British flags.
The vehicles remained outside New Zealand’s Parliament – which had just reconvened after their summer break – for hours, and appear to have left the area peacefully later on in the day, with the Wellington police not reporting any arrests.
An eye-witness testimony from the scene known as ‘Anne’ told the New Zealand Herald queues of convoy cars heading into Wellington via the Kāpiti Expressway said that vehicles “came, and they came, and they didn’t stop – it was unbelievable”, and at times the “queue must have gone on for at least three-quarters of an hour”.
“It’s going to be huge in Wellington … I don’t even know how they’re going to get in there”, Anne said.
The key aims of the protest were reported to be to challenge the mask mandate for pupils in schools and also the vaccination requirement for certain public sector jobs such as for nurses, teachers and police officers.
New Zealand has had some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions, but following both domestic and international pressure has begun to relax its rules.
Following the news that Charlotte Bellis, a pregnant New Zealand journalist, was forced to rely on the Taliban for support, in a shocking turn of events, after New Zealand refused her entry, Ardern’s government U-turned on their strict entry requirements – introducing a gradual relaxing of the entry requirements – possibly to avoid further embarrassment.
Ardern has also promised she won’t implement any more lockdowns.