A number of anti-vaccination protesters joined in today’s Groundswell NZ’s protest, but organisers were careful to ensure the rural sector’s message was not hijacked.
Before tractors, utes, 4WDs and protesters took to small town New Zealand and big cities likeAuckland, organisers issued a list of approved messages and excluded words like “Freedom” and MAGA (Make Ardern Go Away).
Approved slogans for banners at the “Mother of all Protests” included “Enough is Enough”, “No Farmers, No Food” and “No Ute Tax”.
“With our opponents attempting to smear Groundswell, we need to be extra careful not to add fuel to the fire with off-message or offensive banners that the media will highlight,” said organisers Bryce McKenzie and Laurie Patterson.
In Auckland, several anti-vaccination protesters turned up, including an SUV with a cross and signage saying “I don’t want my 6-year-old grandson to be injected with an experimental drug”.
Groundswell Wairarapa cancelled their protest last week to avoid being hijacked by anti-vaxxers.
In Feedback to the Herald on the protest, there was support for the farmers, but concern about the message getting muddled and signs of redneckism like Trump flags, communist signs and Māori-bashing.
“The focus should be on farmers and their issues. And last time I passed the whole protest on the motorway. There were some disgusting signs. Keep it serious. No one will take notice,” said one man.
The Groundswell protest is focused on a slew of Government regulations.
About 100 vehicles, including a large number of utes and about seven tractors, arrived in Queen St, tooting their horns and waving New Zealand flags just after midday.
They travelled down Queen St, turned right into Customs St and doubled back. There were about 30 to 40 protesters, some waving flags, on Queen St and in Te Komititanga Square outside the Britomart train station.
“It’s a great protest but it shows what New Zealand thinks of this precious Government at the moment and all the things they are doing. (It’s) absolutely terrible,” said one man in a vehicle.
In Christchurch up to 300 vehicles gathered in Memorial Ave.
Christchurch organiser Aaron Stark said it was too early for a full count yet, but they’re expecting more people than last time.
“We’re coming in from Rolleston now and we’ve got about 2km of traffic behind us.”
“I’m blown away with the amount of cars driving past down the motorway tooting and waving. Just people in general are turning out to support.”
“Up to 80 vehicles, including some big rigs, gathered at Whanganui racecourse ready to drive around town and show their opposition to the Government’s newest regulations affecting farming.
“Let everybody know we are here and we are not happy with what’s going on in this country,” speaker Dougal Pidwell told the crowds.
Protesters were also active in many other parts of the country, including Wellington, Nelson, Taupo, Greymouth and Ashburton.
Standing in for Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor in Parliament on Thursday, Stuart Nash said – when asked by Act rural spokesman Mark Cameron whether O’Connor had met with Groundswell NZ leaders – he wasn’t sure “what Groundswell stands for these days”.
Based on what he’d read on their website it was “a mixture of racism, anti-vax etcetera, etcetera”, Nash said, before going on to say the Government would continue to meet with farming leaders and engage with rural communities.
In a statement broadcast on Newstalk ZB during yesterday’s protest, the Groundswell organisation said Covid-19 had been tough enough on both rural and urban, with unworkable regulations adding to people’s worries and frustrations.
“We, the people of New Zealand want an end to these regulations until genuine consultation takes place that treats all New Zealand citizens in a fair and equal manner resolving in acceptable resolutions for all.
“If the Government is not forthcoming in addressing these issues, I call on all New Zealanders to join our protest in Wellington in February next year. We say ‘enough is enough’, ” the statement said.
Act leader David Seymour said the party stands with rural New Zealand against unworkable, counterproductive red tape on farmers.
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