New Zealand Antivaccine Protests More Violent

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – The anti-government protests that rocked Canada have been quelled. But 9,000 miles away, in the capital of another Western democracy, largely unaccustomed to tears of violence in the fabric of society, an entrenched and increasingly entrenched Congress-based occupation. become ominous.

Hundreds of protesters protesting against New Zealand’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate are in their third week stationed in Wellington, pitching tents, illegally parking and setting up shared kitchens and toilets in an echo of intention of The Siege of Canada.

In the beginning, the Occupied New Zealand area had a carnival atmosphere, with a popcorn stand and a donut truck and a number of children brought in by their parents. New Zealanders joke it’s the country’s only Omicron-era music festival: Officials blasted Barry Manilow and James Blunt for try to drive out protesters, who responded with some Twisted Sisters of their own.

However, in recent days, after the police proceeded to evict some of the protesters, the demonstration has turned more violent. On Monday, protesters threw feces at police. On Tuesday, a driver attempted to ram a car into a large group of officers and three other members of the force demanding medical attention after protesters sprayed them with what police It claims to be a “painful substance”.

Many protesters described Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, a global icon of the political left, as a dictator. Some have threatened journalists and politicians with executions. Others shouted at students wearing face masks on their way to school. Many people support conspiracy theories like QAnon’s.

While the protesters represent a minority of New Zealanders, the division is notable in a country praised for its highly effective response to Covid-19. The escalating rhetoric and violence demonstrates the dangerous effect that US export misinformation is having on stable democracies around the world, experts say.

“There is a tsunami every day,” said Sanjana Hattotuwa, a researcher at the Te Pūnaha Matatini research organization in New Zealand who studies misinformation. It was “a wave of hate and harm directed at individuals promoting vaccines and the prime minister.”

Although rifts have emerged in New Zealand society, they are “aggravated by conspiracies that have their roots outside of the country,” said Dr Hattotuwa. “Everything you want to combine with QAnon in the US is here.”

Initially, the protesters united under the banner of opposition to vaccine regulations, which included workers in certain sectors in New Zealand. But they include many, including vaccine skeptics, those affected by mission-related job losses, and far-right conspiracy theorists.

Week-long protests in Canada, which began as a response to a ban on vaccinations for truck drivers, were broken up on Saturday with tear gas and mass arrests. In New Zealand, by contrast, the police have proceeded more carefully, partly because of the initial challenges and fresh memories of a brutal crackdown on protesters four years ago. decade.

On the third day of the rally, as officers tried to drive away some of the protesters, the more radical protesters shunned the occupation organizers and resisted the police. After a day-long struggle in which children were at the forefront of the protest, police were pushed back.

Since then, officers have cautiously patrolled the protest. Police Commissioner Andrew Coster, who was appointed to the role in 2020 after stressing the importance of maintaining public support for the force, expressed concern that tactics against More heads can lead to bloody clashes.

Mr Coster hinted at the so-called Springbok tour of 1981, when thousands of New Zealanders protested against the apartheid traveling rugby team from South Africa. Police violently broke up those protests, including using batons against protesters on Molesworth Street – the street that protesters against proxies currently occupy. The episode damaged the police’s reputation for decades.

On Sunday, in an interview with TVNZ, Mr. Coster emphasize his reluctance to repeat that experience. “If we look at the low points of policy in our country, we will look at spots like the Springbok tour,” he said.

But the reluctance of the police to take stronger action seems to have encouraged the protesters.

Add hundreds of people and cars to participate. The occupation consumed nearby streets and shut down Wellington more broadly, with businesses closing after protesters harassed staff for demanding masks and proof of vaccinations. In anticipation of a long stay, some protesters drilled holes in the ground to anchor their tents. New protests emerged in other cities.

Some protesters have enjoyed being part of what they see as a global movement. Reuben Michael, a protester sitting on the eastern edge of the occupation zone on Wednesday, noted that “this phenomenon has happened around the world”.

Protesters in New Zealand have successfully forced a conversation about vaccine missions. On Monday, in what many saw as an attempt to encourage protesters to leave, Ms. Ardern said vaccine missions would likely end once the current Omicron outbreak peaks. in the coming months.

But protesters have largely dismissed the prime minister’s comments. A young woman sitting on the steps of the congressional war memorial angrily insisted: “She told too many lies. It’s too hard to trust her.”

While the police have not been fiercely against the protesters, concerns about a rise in radicalization, as well as public dissatisfaction with the occupation, have prompted officers to take active steps. than to contain the occupation.

On Monday, police escorted forklifts carrying large concrete blocks to establish borders around the protest. During early morning operations in the days since, police have begun narrowing that border to try to force protesters to leave.

The number of protesters seems to have dwindled. But they have left behind a group that has shown little interest in de-escalation, fueling fears that violence is increasingly likely.

When five male protesters sitting on the lawn of an occupied law school were asked what would happen if the police tried to kick them out, one replied, “We will stand our ground.” The second noted, “There may be bloodshed,” prompting the third to emphasize, “But it will be peaceful.”

The second protester paused, then insisted, “We will stay until the end.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/world/australia/new-zealand-protest-vaccine.html New Zealand Antivaccine Protests More Violent

Fry Electronics Team

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