Several thousand people backed by a gang of motorcyclists have marched through New Zealand’s capital Wellington to decry mandatory Coivd-19 jabs and lockdowns in the country, which has reached its 90% fully vaccinated milestone.
The rally on Thursday gathered around 3,000 protesters, according to estimates by local media. The crowd of mostly unmasked demonstrators marched from the central business district to the country’s parliament, known as the Beehive, where they staged a rally.
Photos from the Wellington protest today. Big turnout for it. pic.twitter.com/lrXXG9T0B4
The procession, which had been headed by dozens of motorcyclists, carried signs reading: ‘Freedom over fear’, ‘Lockdowns destroy lives’, and ‘Kiwis are not lab rats’, among others.
Today’s Wellington 🏍 pic.twitter.com/UEvECJ3lkb
At least 50 officers were deployed to maintain order outside the parliament, which the local media described as a “strong police presence.”
Big crowds gathered in Wellington today to protest against vaccine mandates and passports. After gathering in Civic Square, they marched to Parliament. pic.twitter.com/vH5TiKhBfK
The protesters at the Beehive chanted “You serve us” and “Show us your face.” However, the calls, addressed to MPs, were in vain as the parliament closed for holidays on Wednesday.
Protest in Wellington 🙌🙌🙌.Keep safe everyone pic.twitter.com/tb1KukWEOg
Several speakers on stage urged New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to step down over what they saw as an unfair clampdown on people’s freedoms under the guise of the pandemic.
The rally went off peacefully without any arrests being reported.
New Zealand has managed to keep coronavirus infections and deaths low during the pandemic, but it came at a price as the island nation cut itself off from the rest of the world and introduced lockdowns and mandatory vaccination for teachers, health workers, police, and other public service sectors.
Due to the mounting pressure, PM Ardern eased most restrictions ahead of the Christmas break as the strategy of trying to eliminate Covid-19 was swapped for the so-called ‘traffic light’ system of living with the virus.
However, the move still wasn’t enough to prevent protesters from taking to the streets.
Some 90% of New Zealand’s eligible population, or about 3.8 million people, have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the government.
On Thursday, the country’s regulator approved the Pfizer jab for children aged five to 11 years.