Demonstration in Parliament: leader Brian Tamaki says the group does not plan an occupation
Roads were closed, concrete blocks moved and temporary fencing put up around Parliament on Monday night as the city braces for the anti-government protest. Video / NZ Herald
The leader of an anti-government protest scheduled for parliament tomorrow said the group would not occupy the space overnight and any violence would be defused.
Around 1,000 people are expected to descend on the grounds of Parliament tomorrow for a protest led by Destiny Church founder Brian Tamaki of the Freedoms and Rights Coalition.
Roads have been closed, concrete blocks moved and temporary fencing put up around Parliament as the protest convoy heads to the Beehive for tomorrow’s event.
Tamaki, who was spotted at a Wellington cafe this afternoon, told the Herald he did not want violence at the protest and would have men working as security.
“I have good people providing good security…we don’t want that, we don’t want violence.”
It comes six months after anti-mandate protesters set up camp in Parliament, bringing part of the capital to a standstill before the 23-day protest ended in violent and heated fashion as riot police burst in to disperse the crowd.
As fires burned on the Houses of Parliament lawn on the final day of the protest in early March, fire hoses were used to deter protesters, who ripped cobblestones from the driveway and threw them at police.
Tamaki said he was not involved in this protest, saying he had been involved in 150 other protests and “not one was violent”.
When asked if he would “occupy” Parliament space tomorrow, Tamaki replied “no way”.
“We’re here for a day. The police know that. There’s no occupancy. All the tents coming out…even my guys will tell them [to] store.”
The Destiny Church pastor said he believed the protest would end around 2 p.m., but said if someone else “pops up and leaves, it’s not our responsibility.”
Tamaki’s wife, Hannah Tamaki, made similar remarks on TVNZ’s Q&A show on Sunday.
She said an occupation similar to what was seen six months ago had not been planned to her knowledge.
However, she did not rule out – nor would she take responsibility – for what might happen after their protest activity ends.
“Once we’re all gone… whatever other people do, sorry, that’s not our problem,” she said.
Tamaki noted that tomorrow’s protest will fall on the 18th anniversary of his protest against the creation of civil unions, which allowed same-sex couples to enjoy state recognition of their relationships and some of the rights that go with.
Some demonstrators have clothes recalling the 18th anniversary of this march, reiterating its slogan “Enough is enough”.
“It’s been 18 years to the day. We didn’t realize when we booked the date it wasn’t on purpose,” Tamaki said.
“We keep fighting – it’s generational now,” Tamaki said.
Tamaki said there was no connection between the two protests other than the date.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was today asked if the police were going too far with regard to the security of the protest, given that Tamaki had said she had no intention of being violent or try to occupy the ground. She said no one wanted to see a repeat of what happened last time.
While Tamaki could do it, other groups involved could take a different approach, she said.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said it was a trying time for people who lived or worked in Parliament or went to school there.
Starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, protesters will march from Civic Square to Parliament before “the people’s court” – as it has been dubbed online – meets at 11 a.m.
Police have threatened to be arrested and prosecuted if those who broke into Parliament during the previous protest return tomorrow.
The district’s Maori wardens will also be present at the protest to help “keep the peace”, a spokesman said.
Many people working and studying in the area were encouraged to work from home on Tuesday to avoid the march.
Ahead of tomorrow’s protest, Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Arcus said there was a sense of concern among some businesses.
At least 50 businesses in Wellington have received relief payments following the disruption of the February protest, which forced some businesses to close completely.
“There’s a bit of muscle memory from the last manifestation that makes people anxious.”
But overall, he said businesses were confident authorities were better prepared this time around.
The February protest temporarily closed Victoria University of Wellington’s Pipitea campus, located near the Beehive, while its Vic Books bookshop permanently closed.
The campus will remain open this time, but the vehicle entrance gates to the old government buildings have been closed.
“Staff and students have been notified of the planned protest and can choose to work or study remotely if they prefer,” a spokesperson said.
The campus Vic Books store was forced to permanently close after the February protest
* Additional reporting Julia Gabel