Te Awamutu Courier

Protesting for freedom

- By Luke East

Of the thousand or so people presently occupying the Parliament forecourt to protest Vaccine Mandates a number are from Waipa¯ , including two I spoke to recently; Tess Ferreira, a stay-at-home mum from Cambridge and Dan Harris, a landscaper from Arapuni.

Dan tells me he and his tradie mates were motivated to join the protest by video of police kneeling on the head or neck of a protester earlier that week, footage which has since drawn criticism and complaints to the Independen­t Police Conduct Authority.

He “couldn’t believe this was New Zealand, as I truly had faith in our country’s leadership that they would see motivated Kiwis rallying and coming down and actually engage with them”.

They arrived in Wellington shortly after the sprinklers had been turned on by order of the Speaker of the House and “helped where we could” as the protesters diverted the water away from their tents. The next day was “unreal” as the grounds filled with thousands of Kiwis joining the movement and crowds spilling out from the grounds on to the road; the protest has continued to grow since.

Tess says she arrived at the protest on February 14 and has been there ever since.

She is motivated to protest by the heartbreak of seeing “so many children now having to grow up in a world where you have to cover half your face with a face mask, with children also having to do the same”.

As a full-time mum she has felt the pain of not being able to attend her daughter’s school assemblies due to current Covid-19 restrictio­ns and wants the mandates and restrictio­ns to end.

Of the gathering at Parliament she says “there are vaccinated and unvaccinat­ed people here and we all support each other with respect and kindness. Down here it is not a world of separation between the vaxxed and unvaxxed, we are all one just asking for our freedom of choice back.”

Similarly Dan describes the protesters as “families, profession­als, ex-fire, police and rescue service, nurses and teachers, big company labourers, people who are unjabbed and people who are triple-jabbed and masked. It doesn’t matter, they’re there for dialogue, there to support one another” and to call for an end to the mandates which have divided the country. They’re passionate Kiwis calling for the return of their freedoms, not the conspiracy theorists or lunatics they have been labelled as.

Having spoken with Tess, Dan and others who are at the protest, it seems that contrary to what we’ve heard on TV, for the most part, the protest has been peaceful with food trucks dishing out free doughnuts and other refreshmen­ts and those present setting up tents for yoga, massages, Christian worship, Hare Krishna meditation, haircuts and more besides.

The anti-Mandate movement is not just those gathered outside Parliament but more than 100,000 Kiwis (85,000+ in the Convoy’s Facebook group and 100,000+ supporting Voices For Freedom who are also part of the protest) who are donating money, food, clothes, tents, fuel and other resources to support those in Wellington protesting; on Saturday, February 12 many Te Awamutu-based supporters gathered in town to meet some of those en route to Wellington to join the protest and gave them ute-loads of food and other resources to take to Wellington on their behalf — similar drop-offs have been taking place throughout the country and Tess says there are people “from all over New Zealand here supporting, donating and volunteeri­ng at the tents they have set up”.

The protesters were not dissuaded by Cyclone Dovi, nor by the activation of Parliament’s sprinklers (which drenched many as they slept), nor the constant and much-criticised blaring of music by Trevor Mallard — they say they will not be leaving until all mandates end, so as far as

I can see, they may be there for some time yet.

 ?? Photo / Dan Harris ?? Protestors are ignoring the weather to make their point.
Photo / Dan Harris Protestors are ignoring the weather to make their point.

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