Covid-19 Delta outbreak: Brian Tamaki’s Auckland Lockdown protest rally “highly irresponsible,” says an expert

Brian Tamaki addresses up to 2000 anti-lockdown protesters in the Auckland Domain. Video / NZ Herald

Brian Tamaki and his supporters were highly irresponsible for organizing the anti-lockdown protest this morning in the Auckland Domain, says epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker.

And Te Pūnaha Matatini Covid-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank said protesters’ actions to break level 3 rules to protect Aucklanders were disappointing.

“There is a risk that the virus can spread. It undermines our collective response, ”said Plank.

Covid

Up to 2,000 protesters gathered in the field and steps in front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, most of whom were not wearing masks.

The crowd included a range of people, from gang members to grandmas. There were families – even with small babies – on picnic chairs.

Others were wheelchair users and some were walkers, while a number of motorcycles and two or three tractors were parked sideways.

Professor Baker said when Auckland made huge sacrifices to keep the Covid-19 outbreak going, the protest did not help.

He said there was a chance an infectious person could attend the event, but the level of risk was difficult to gauge and it could be a case of luck or bad luck that the virus spreads.

On the positive side, the event was not held indoors, which reduced the potential for super-spread, but one problem was people traveling in groups and holding gatherings before and after the event. It also set a precedent for more rule breaks, Baker said.

At around 11.20 a.m., Tamaki took the stage and thanked those present.

He also thanked the police for working with him to make it a “peaceful but vigorous day”.

Tamaki’s message to the government was: “We had courage.”

The protesters that showed up today carried an important message that “we are taking back our country,” he said.

Brian Tamaki at the anti-lockdown protest.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Brian Tamaki at the anti-lockdown protest. Photo / Dean Purcell

“Today we are facing a government that we thought we could trust. Instead, it is robbing the freedoms and rights of everyday Kiwis.”

He said he believed the government didn’t know what to do next and had run out of ideas.

He said he was not a scientist or a politician. Some of those gathered “are probably experts by now based on everything they read on social media,” he said.

Auckland was on the verge of “house arrest” for 50 days, Tamaki said.

The crowd includes a range of people, from gang members to grandmas.  There are families - even those with small babies - who set up picnic chairs.  Photo / Dean Purcell
The crowd includes a range of people, from gang members to grandmas. There are families – even those with small babies – who set up picnic chairs. Photo / Dean Purcell

“They give that to prisoners. We all went to jail.”

“Society was restructured out of fear,” he said.

Earlier this week, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff criticized Tamaki as an “idiot” after it was revealed that he was planning to protest.

“So many Australians worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get rid of this virus. These people seem to be working in the opposite direction. That’s not good enough, ”Goff told Newstalk ZB.

Police previously said they would be visible at the rally organized by Destiny Church and warned protesters that they might be arrested.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Police previously said they would be visible at the rally organized by Destiny Church and warned protesters that they might be arrested. Photo / Dean Purcell

Goff said he wished there was “an element of common sense” from Tamaki.

“Our police have so many things they need to fight crime, they don’t have to waste their time on idiots.

“We saw it in the United States and we saw it recently in Australia and Melbourne and we all thought most of New Zealand was more sensible – they are common sense and are not extreme,” said Goff called.

Other speakers on the stage today urged protesters to distance themselves socially as much as possible and to wear masks if they had any.

“This is a peaceful booth … all over the world we’ve seen all kinds of booths and some were rioting … but this is a peaceful booth,” one of the MCs on stage told the crowd.

Anti-lockdown protest in the Auckland Domain.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Anti-lockdown protest in the Auckland Domain. Photo / Dean Purcell

Signs held in the air speak of freedom of choice and freedom from lockdown and “freedom to be me”.

The police held back on the verge of protest. Security guards in safety vests flank the stage and move around in the audience.

Other users of the domain – dog walkers, cyclists, and joggers – all pulled past the protest.

Protesters at the rally began to disperse around 12.15 p.m. after Tamaki stopped speaking.

Police previously said they would be visible at the rally organized by Destiny Church and warned protesters that they might be arrested.

A police spokeswoman said officers would monitor the event but reserve the right to arrest or punish those who violate Covid restrictions.

Anti-lockdown protest in the Auckland Domain.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Anti-lockdown protest in the Auckland Domain. Photo / Dean Purcell

“The police will monitor the situation and respond accordingly,” she said.

“The police recognize and respect people’s right to protest. Under the restrictions of level 3, however, only weddings, funerals and tangihanga with no more than 10 people are allowed. “

“The police have the ability to take enforcement action, including issuing violations, summons to court and arresting those who violate current restrictions.”

Tamaki’s rally began this morning in Auckland after meeting top police chiefs Andrew Coster and Wally Haumaha last week.

The three discussed health and safety measures for the rally.

“The three of us had a Zoom meeting and they acknowledge that it’s part of the Bill of Rights that people protest,” Tamaki said at the time.

Anti-lockdown protest in the Auckland Domain.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Anti-lockdown protest in the Auckland Domain. Photo / Dean Purcell

“We’re trying to be responsible and they said they couldn’t stop it. We have agreed to work together and we will make sure that we are Covid responsible.

“Commissioner Coster asked that masks be a condition and I agreed. It’s a small compromise.”

After the meeting, Coster wrote to Tamaki to summarize what was discussed.

Coster wrote that although it was unusual for him to be involved in a discussion of this nature, it reflected his concern about the level of interest in the gathering and its potential size.

“I do not want to be in the position of other jurisdictions in police control of protest activity and prefer to take a preventive approach,” he said.

The Destiny Church motorcycle convoy is traveling north on the freeway towards the domain to protest the lockdown.  Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Destiny Church motorcycle convoy is driving north on the freeway towards the domain to protest the lockdown. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

“I note that the current health regime requires people not to leave their homes except for essential personal movements that pose a risk to those attending this planned event. The police respect that protest is part of a free and well-functioning democracy.

“However, this has to be weighed against the legality and appropriateness of the protest action. As we’ve indicated, gathering for a non-compliant protest run carries the risk of Covid transmission and can lead to enforcement actions, including against yourself as the organizer, “said Coster.

Coster told Tamaki he was concerned about the positioning of the protest and the particular use of the phrase “let’s get arrested”.

“We would ask you to clarify your public messages on this point, that is, to make it clear that you intend to hold this event safely and that you do not intend for people to act in a way that will lead to their arrest.”

Coster said that if you continue the planned event you “risk an enforcement reaction from the police.”

The Auckland area is currently on Alert 3, which means movement is limited to getting to work, shopping, or getting around. While some business travel is allowed, residents must stay within budget bubbles and be close to their home.

The Destiny Church motorcycle convoy is traveling north on the freeway towards the domain to protest the lockdown.  Photo / Sylvie Whinray
The Destiny Church motorcycle convoy is traveling north on the freeway towards the domain to protest the lockdown. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

Epidemiologist Michael Baker said it was a high risk activity during times of a pandemic on alert level 3 in Auckland, but wearing a mask at all times would minimize some risk.

“This goes against the need for physical distancing, but an outdoor event is less risk of transmission unless it’s a quiet day,” he said.

Protesters mount a kiwi flag on a tractor that drives to the protests.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Protesters mount a kiwi flag on a tractor that goes to the protests. Photo / Dean Purcell

“The real problem will be in Auckland, where only one person is contagious with the potential to infect many people.

A tractor full of spuds will be part of the protest vehicles that drive to the rally.  Photo / Dean Purcell
A tractor full of spuds will be part of the protest vehicles that drive to the rally. Photo / Dean Purcell

“The difficulty is in what happens before and after the protest, like the common transport and socializing afterwards, especially indoors where most people don’t wear masks indoors.”

The top-class businessman Leo Molloy, who is a close friend of the Tamakis, is expected to speak.

Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki meets with a police officer in South Auckland today ahead of a scheduled anti-lockdown rally.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki meets with a police officer in South Auckland today ahead of a scheduled anti-lockdown rally. Photo / Dean Purcell

Molloy said his speech will be about why kiwis should be vaccinated.

“I’m going to talk about the right to make an informed choice and trust science,” Molloy said.

Police warned they could make arrests today if they protest the lockdown.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Police warned they could make arrests today if they protest the lockdown. Photo / Dean Purcell

“I’m going to talk about the responsibility leaders have in every sector, in politics, business, religion, sports, even gangs – every sector should have strong leaders who preach the Bible about vaccination.”

About Clayton Arredondo

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