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A large group of demonstrators gathered at a major park in Auckland, New Zealand to protest ongoing Covid lockdown measures in the country – many arriving with a procession of motorbikes headed by a local church leader.

The protesters – who numbered between 1,000 and 2,000, per local media reports – descended on the Auckland Domain on Saturday to demand an end to the lockdowns. A caravan of motorcycles led by Brian Tamaki – a vocal anti-lockdown activist who heads the Auckland-based Pentecostal Destiny Church – was among the first on the scene, captured in videos as the procession made its way to the park.

Remaining peaceful for the duration of the event, the demo saw Tamaki deliver a fiery, 40-minute speech denouncing the draconian shutdown orders, which have remained in effect in Auckland for nearly two months straight.

“Now Auckland’s coming up to 50 days – 50 days we’ve been on home detention. That’s the same thing they give to prisoners who’ve done a crime; it’s an alternative to going to jail,” he said. “I’ve been locked up for over 50 days in my house, and I haven’t done a crime. I’ve done nothing wrong, and I’ve been punished. We are penalized.”

I can’t go outside because the neighbor might tell on me. I can’t drive down the road to get some milk and bread because the policeman might pull me over.

 

While the police presence at Saturday’s demonstration appeared somewhat subdued, with no arrests or clashes reported, National Party MP Simeon Brown, the party’s police spokesman, denounced the protest in no uncertain terms, also taking a jab at law enforcement itself.

“The rules are clear. The police have rightly warned protesters in Auckland today – yet we see a blind eye turned to gangs breaking lockdown rules. Aucklanders want out of this lockdown – and it means rules being applied consistency [sic],” he said in a tweet, presumably referring to the biker procession as a ‘gang’.

Whether it’s a gang funeral or a protest – the rules are clear. The Police have rightly warned protestors in Auckland today – yet we see a blind eye turned to gangs breaking lockdown rules. Aucklanders want out of this lockdown – and it means rules being applied consistency.

— Simeon Brown (@SimeonBrownMP) October 1, 2021

Earlier this week, Brown denounced “gang members” – also bikers – after they gathered for a funeral, which was promptly dispersed by police in West Auckland. He said the funeral was “demoralizing for the more than 1.7 million Aucklanders” who have done as they were told and dutifully followed the dictates of their government.

“This is just not good enough. The government needs to make clear that the rules apply to gang members and if they break them they will be treated just like everyone else,” he went on, calling for a harsher police response.

Perhaps it’s time for some tough love?

Average Kiwis have echoed Brown’s sentiments in posts online, some demanding a police crackdown on the defiant bikers and “moronic cult” members – apparently referring to the involvement of Tamaki and his Christian fundamentalist following.

So let me get this straight – I’m fully vaccinated but I can’t leave Auckland for business or pleasure, or do much outside of the home except grocery shopping and a 2000 people can get together for a cult protest?

— Samantha Gray (@gramatterz) October 2, 2021

Dear @nzpolice if I went ahead and organised an event for over 1000 people in Auckland I’m pretty sure you would arrest me. As well you should. So why don’t you get on over there and ARREST Brian Tamaki and his moronic cult.

— Karen Ferguson (@karen0968) October 2, 2021

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared a “short and sharp” national lockdown in mid-August after a single Covid-19 case was detected in Auckland – the country’s largest metropolis – the measures have dragged on in the city and still remain in force, despite much of the rest of New Zealand returning to normal in the time since. The government continues to insist on a ‘zero-infections’ strategy in Auckland, seeking to completely eradicate the highly infectious, globe-spanning virus – a feat no other country has been able to accomplish, barring the somewhat dubious claims of the North Korean government.

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