Police gather at Parliament as 'pro-Trump' rally gets underway

Author
Jason Walls and Sophie Trigger, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 14 Jan 2021, 12:51PM
Billy Te Kahika hired his own, private security for his protest. Photo / Jason Walls
Billy Te Kahika hired his own, private security for his protest. Photo / Jason Walls

Police gather at Parliament as 'pro-Trump' rally gets underway

Author
Jason Walls and Sophie Trigger, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 14 Jan 2021, 12:51PM

Police have been called in to monitor a so-called "freedom rally" outside Parliament this afternoon, led by controversial political figure Billy Te Kahika.

Protesters have gathered outside Parliament – as have police who are on-site this afternoon to "ensure safety and uphold the law".

Te Kahika has also hired his own, private security for the event.

One of the protesters said she "loved Trump" and the rally was about a number of issues. Photo / Jason wallsOne of the protesters said she "loved Trump" and the rally was about a number of issues. Photo / Jason walls

There are roughly 50 protestors - they are outnumbered by people having lunch on Parliament's lawn.

The rally was planned to converge on Parliament grounds at 1pm but protesters began to gather much earlier, armed with Donald Trump flags and 'QAnon' T-shirts.

One of the protesters spoken to by the Herald said she "loved Trump" and the rally was about a number of issues, including 1080, "freedom" and the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Protestors begin gathering outside Parliament for this afternoon's 'freedom rally'. Photo / Jason WallsProtestors begin gathering outside Parliament for this afternoon's 'freedom rally'. Photo / Jason Walls

Parliament's security is out in numbers and there is a police presence on the ground.

A police spokesperson said they had been made aware of a rally planned at the Beehive, and were in contact with the protest organiser.

"Police's role is to ensure safety and uphold the law, while recognising the lawful right to protest."

The rally earlier came under fire from Māori council chair Matthew Tukaki.

"It's alt-right, it's pro-Trump, this has got nothing to do with freedom."

The Herald has sought comment from Te Kahika.

A protest outside NZ Parliament gets underway. Photo / Jason WallsA protest outside NZ Parliament gets underway. Photo / Jason Walls

Tukaki said the rally organisers were pushing conspiracies about Covid-19, such as that New Zealand was about to enter a level 4 lockdown.

"New Zealand is the standout country around the world right now, we have freedom of movement in the face of a global pandemic, we are able to move freely across our country.

"You still get to go to a tangi and a funeral, you still get to go see your moko that has just been born in the hospital. You still get to go celebrate that 70th birthday.

"So what exact freedoms are they talking about?"

Security erected fences ahead of the rally. Photo / Jason WallsSecurity erected fences ahead of the rally. Photo / Jason Walls

Posters for the rally urged supporters to bring their placards.

"Unite and stand against the harmful, unnecessary and unlawful lockdowns," the poster, shared by Te Kahika on Facebook said.

Tukaki said New Zealand had elements of the same problems as the United States, but Kiwis were "more practical". The US Capitol building was stormed in Washington last week.

"Some of our community do feel disaffected, disenfranchised and disconnected but not on the scale as the United States," he said.

"We can work on that here and I strongly believe we've got an opportunity to really balance the equation and create equity."

Tukaki expected thousands could show up at the rally in Wellington.

A police spokesperson said they would recognise the lawful right to protest, while ensuring safety and upholding the law. They would be ready to respond to any issues should they arise.