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Brian Tamaki-led protests end after unsuccessful attempts to access Auckland motorway

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 6 Aug 2022, 10:00am
A pro-Freedom & Rights Coalition supporter was blocked by police in getting close to the counter-protest group at the Domain. (Photo / Dean Purcell)
A pro-Freedom & Rights Coalition supporter was blocked by police in getting close to the counter-protest group at the Domain. (Photo / Dean Purcell)

Brian Tamaki-led protests end after unsuccessful attempts to access Auckland motorway

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 6 Aug 2022, 10:00am

* Motorway on and off-ramps closed
* Police warn of traffic "disruption" around central Auckland
* Officers step in between counter-group and hecklers
* Brian Tamaki announces new protest on Parliament
* Newmarket business community calls on protesters not to disrupt busy Saturday shopping day

Brian Tamaki's Freedom & Rights Coalition is set to make another march on Parliament - calling on New Zealanders to join various convoys there from both ends of the country.

Tamaki made the announcement at today's protest event at Auckland's Domain - an event where police had to earlier step in between members of the Brian Tamaki-led Freedom & Rights Coalition and a counter-protest group as they traded verbal blows in Auckland's Domain.

As of 2.30pm today the protests had finished after a loop through the inner city streets of Newmarket along Khyber Pass road. The protestors were unsuccessful at accessing the Southern Motorway as they had done on July 23.

Police had stood guard at closed Southern Motorway on and off-ramps at both Khyber Pass and Symonds St all morning in a bid to stop any moves to march on the motorway; closures which are leading to traffic delays.

At least one person has been moved on by police after verbal insults were aimed at members of a group set-up to protest the coalition's latest anti-Government event.

And police asked the counter-group to identify themselves to separate the crowd from Tamaki's group. The road near the Auckland War Memorial Museum is being used as a barrier to divide the two groups.

After the tense stand-off, members of the coalition sang the national anthem and then prepared to march after a series of speeches.

Just after 2pm, Tamaki was leading his protest up Symonds St towards Khyber Pass.

Police attempted to block the protesters from carrying on down Khyber Pass towards the on-ramp by diverting them to turn back towards the domain but it was unsuccessful.

The earlier speakers included Tamaki who hit out both the Government labelling it "oppressive" and the opposition who he claimed were "shameful".

The Destiny Church revealed another protest would take place at Parliament later this month. He called on people to join a convoy to the capital starting in the Far North early next week.

Once in Wellington they would seek support from the opposition for a vote of no confidence in the Government.

The latest move to again protest at the home of New Zealand democracy comes after the earlier 24-day occupation of Parliament Grounds. That occupation ended on March 2 in violence and a fire ripping through the protesters' camp.

He said his group had no intention of blocking the motorway today, unlike they did two weeks ago. And he also hit back at those who have labelled his supporters "raisins and fruitcakes".

The coalition supporters started leaving the Domain on a protest march about 1.30pm.

They walked past Auckland City Hospital - stopping traffic - and then headed over Grafton Bridge.

Earlier, police and traffic officials closed two of the Southern Motorway's busiest weekend set of on and off-ramps near the central city as members of the the coalition began their event which they hope will be "impactive".

Dubbed the 'Kiwi Patriot Day and March', the group faced a counter-protest group.

Two weeks ago Tamaki and the coalition closed the Southern Motorway in both directions after walking onto it en masse after an earlier protest at the Auckland Domain.

NZTA initially closed the on and off-ramp at Khyber Pass - popular routes for people going to and from Newmarket - and urged motorists to consider a different route.

They then closed the on and off-ramps at Symonds St.

Police have also urged motorists to be prepared for traffic "disruption" around central Auckland today.

Inspector Jim Wilson, Auckland City East Area Commander, said locations that protesters are expected to gather, including Auckland Domain, will be monitored by Police.

"Police ask the community to be patient on the roads as we expect there might be some traffic delays and disruptions, particularly near the Domain, and the surrounding areas," Wilson said.

"We are actively monitoring this event to ensure the protest activity is carried out in a safe manner for all involved, including members of the public.

"Any unsafe or dangerous behaviour occurring throughout the event will be followed up by Police and appropriate action taken."

Police recognised the public's right to "protest peacefull and lawfully" but action would be taken where required. Any concerning behaviour can be reported to Police by calling 105.

"We are about love and peace"

At 11am, the official start time of the protest, members of the Freedoms & Rights Coalition vastly outnumber those in the anti-protest group.

There were approximately 500 supporters of the coalition and about 150 counter protesters. The counter protesters are staying on top of the hill near the Auckland War Memorial Museum, while Tamaki's supporters were down on a playing field.

A member of the counter-protest, Samantha Thompson, travelled all the way from the Bay of Plenty and told the Herald: "It's more of a rally, we will not be moving from the location we are in, we are about love and peace".

One lone person from coaltion approached the the counter protesters, but was met with chants to leave.

The man called the counter-protest "tyranny" and claimed Tamaki's group backed the thoughts of the "mass majority" of New Zealanders.

But a man dressed in bright stripped tights told the Herald he had joined the counter protest after witnessing his now ex-wife be swept up by the so-called "freedom marchers".

"We're not to together now after that," said Mark who travelled from of the Bay of Plenty to be here too.

"My poor wife got caught up in the rabbit hole and it started with Covid so I'm here for a person reason as well."

Organiser of the counter-protest, Mark Graham, told the group who had gathered: "The best thing to do is ignore them.

"This started as a suggestion on Twitter three days ago, and now you are all hear to say no to people who spread hatred.

"If you don't like what the current Government are about then you vote them out in the next election, that's democracy."

Tamaki supporters try to silence counter-group

But as he and others talked, members of the coalition came closer and started heckling the counter-group.

Loud music played by members of the coalition also aimed at drowning out the counter-group's speakers.

The police presence increased as tension between the two groups rose.

A coalition flyer for the march says the event is to show New Zealand how many patriotic Kiwis want to "get NZ back again"; to "put the Government on notice that Kiwis have had enough"; and to "unite Freedom Fighters across [the] North Island".

Organisers have stated this week they plan to make an "impactive" protest action.

According to the coalition's website, similar events are being planned in Christchurch and Wellington later this month while a convoy from Kaitaia to Wellington, called The Great Kiwi Roadtrip, has been planned for August 22.

In response, a counter-protest group organised is set to shadow Tamaki and the coalition.

"The coalition and Brian Tamaki are not calling for freedom and rights, they want things to be done the way they want. That's just selfish," Graham said.

Traffic backs up on Khyber Pass after both Southern Motorway on and off-ramps were closed due to today's protest. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Traffic backs up on Khyber Pass after both Southern Motorway on and off-ramps were closed due to today's protest. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

"He is throwing a tantrum because he is not getting what he wants. This is not democratic."

Some who supported the counter-protest have said they would block motorway entrances to prevent any attempt by demonstrators to disrupt traffic.

In response, police said they would be closely monitoring the protest.

History of disruption

Two weeks ago police were criticised for not stopping Tamaki and his supporters from gaining access and then closing the motorway in both directions.

Police are still considering charges against some involved in that march.

"Police recognise the lawful right to protest. We also recognise the rights of the public to go about their lawful business," a police spokesperson said.

"We will monitor and respond to the situation accordingly to ensure public safety and to make sure any disruption to the public is kept to a minimum."

Police said earlier in the week that they were in talks with organisers of today's protest in and around Auckland Domain.

Details of the route have not yet been shared with the public.

The group said it would not be the same as the previous protest but would be "impactive".

The coalition had organised and supported many protests across the country in the past 18 months, including the 23-day occupation of Parliament grounds earlier this year.

Business community makes plea

Retailers were also nervous ahead of today's protest.

Newmarket Business Association chief executive Mark Knoff-Thomas said it hoped the protesters would respect the business owners' right to trade.

Some previous protests have led to closures of roads in the Newmarket shopping precinct.

"The last one caused major disruptions to our trade. We saw an immediate impact as Newmarket was cut off from the public so shoppers could not come in.

"Saturday's our busiest day and in these times we need all the business we can get."

In January, Tamaki was arrested for breaching bail conditions and spent nine days inside Auckland's Mt Eden Corrections Facility.

Prior to that, he had been charged three times over his attendance at Auckland Domain lockdown protests.

After last month's motorway chaos caused by Tamaki's group, Auckland Central Area Commander Graeme Anderson said offices would review the actions of those involved with a view to prosecution for being on the motorway.

In addition to the offence of pedestrians on the motorway, police noted poor driving decisions by motorists including motorcyclists without helmets, children riding in the back of a ute, and at least one pedestrian who put themselves at significant risk by moving into a live traffic lane.

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"While the organisers put out a press release the night before, they refused to engage with Auckland Police prior to the protest to provide detail about their intended route and did not divulge this information until the protest began," Anderson said.

"This was extremely disappointing as it meant our staff and Waka Kotahi had to move quickly to keep all road users in the area safe.

"This was reckless behaviour on part of the organisers and participants. I don't know why they would think this was a safe act to undertake, and it had the added consequence of causing disruption to members of the community who were just trying to go about their day."

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