Top police bosses Andrew Coster and Wally Haumaha have met virtually with Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki over his plans for an anti-lockdown protest rally.
On Friday, Police Commissioner Coster and Deputy Commissioner Haumaha discussed health and safety measures with Tamaki for an upcoming protest rally expected to take place in two cities, Auckland and Christchurch.
“The three of us had a Zoom meeting and they recognise it is a part of the Bill of Rights for people to protest,” Tamaki said. “We are trying to be responsible, and they said it is something they can’t stop. We agreed to cooperate and we will make sure we are Covid responsible.
“Commissioner Coster asked for masks to be a condition, which I agreed to. It is a small compromise.”
The Auckland region is currently under alert level 3, with movement restricted to going to work, shopping or getting exercise. While some business travel is allowed, residents are required to stay within household bubbles and keep close to home.
Tamaki told the Herald the protests have been organised by the Freedom and Rights Coalition.
“This is a peaceful protest to say lockdowns are damaging our livelihoods and the mental state of this country,” he said.
There will be a motorcade of tractors, motorcycles, utes and classic cars, said Tamaki.
“We want everyone to wear black and white masks, there will be free hand sanitiser stations and QR scanning codes. Families will self-distance and remain in their bubbles on individual mats. Kissing, hugging and handshakes are banned – waving is allowed.”
Tamaki believed the gathering wouldn’t be violent, like the recent Covid protests in Australia.
“This is a peaceful family-friendly event. We have security personnel who will be moving amongst crowds to ensure all participants are behaving peacefully.”
Epidemiologist Michael Baker said it was a high-risk activity in the time of a pandemic at alert level 3 in Auckland, but wearing a mask at all times will minimise some risk.
“This opposes the need for physical distancing but an event outdoors is a lower risk of transmission unless it is a still day. The real problem is going to be in Auckland, where it only takes one person who is infectious to potentially infect a lot of people. The difficulty is what happens before and after the protest like shared transport and socialising afterwards, especially indoors where most people don’t wear masks inside.
“Almost by definition, this is breaking across many different bubbles. The people who are protesting in favour of their freedoms are also renowned for not wearing masks unless they absolutely have to,” Baker said.
Where to get a vaccination in Auckland – without a booking
High-profile businessman and Auckland mayoral contender Leo Molloy – who is a close friend of the Tamakis – is one of the speakers.
Molloy said his speech is about why Kiwis should get vaccinated.
“I will talk about the right to make an informed decision and to trust science. I’ll talk about the responsibility leaders have in every sector, political, business, religion, sport, even gangs – every sector should have strong leaders who will preach the bible about being vaccinated.
“It’s a stick and carrot approach, I think there needs to be some incentivisation scheme for people who get the jab like a free burger or a $50 KFC voucher. Or you say, you will never attend another concert, another sporting event, church, or travel on a plane or on public transport … this is a pandemic,” Molloy said.
Molloy told the Herald he is planning to segregate his staff “apartheid” style when his restaurant Headquarters on the viaduct reopens in alert level 2.He said vaccinated staff will wear yellow T-shirts and work indoors directly with clients. Non-vaccinated staff will wear charcoal T-shirts and work outdoors only and kitchen staff and cleaners will wear black T-shirts.
There would be no exceptions – even for regulars like the Tamakis.
“All the non-vaccinated staff and customers will be outside on the Western side in the miserable cold with southerly winds, driving rain, it will be worse than Chernobyl,” Molloy said.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said in a statement: “The Ministry is constantly reviewing its response to Covid-19, based on clinical, scientific, international and national evidence to provide guidance and advice to the public.
“We know the Delta variant is highly transmissible so we recently put some additional restrictions and guidance in place to help prevent transmission in the community. For example, it is now mandatory for everyone aged over 12 years to wear a face-covering when visiting businesses or services.
“Clinical evidence also advises two-metre physical distancing in response to the Delta variant of COVID-19.
“At Alert Level 3, the only gatherings that are allowed are weddings, civil unions, viewing a tūpāpaku or deceased person, funerals and tangihanga – with a maximum of up to 10 people.
“At Alert Level 2, events with up to 100 people can go ahead in a defined indoor or outdoor space. Any protest activity must be in accordance with the restrictions around gatherings and comply with other restrictions which may apply to the venue – such as the use of face coverings and QR codes.”
A police spokesperson saidthey would not comment on operational matters butsaid in a statement: “Police are aware of the planned gatherings and will be monitoring the situation on the day and responding accordingly.
“Police recognise and respect people’s lawful right to protest – however, under Level 3 restrictions the only gatherings allowed are weddings, funerals, and tangihanga with no more than 10 people.
Police do have the ability to take enforcement action, including issuing infringement notices, summonsing to court and making arrests, for those found to be breaching the restrictions currently in place.”
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