Efforts to clear New Zealand anti-vaccine protesters by blasting Barry Manilow songs on a loop have drawn criticism from police officers who are caught in the middle.
Hundreds of demonstrators, who have been inspired by the “Freedom Convoy” of truckers in Canada, have been camped on the lawns of parliament for a week, ignoring appeals from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday to “go home, and take your children”.
Attempts to move the protesters over the weekend included playing pop songs such as “Baby Shark”, “Macarena” and Manilow’s “Mandy.”
Wellington police chief Superintendent Corrie Parnell was not happy at the tongue-in-cheek tactics deployed by parliament officials, which appear to have steeled demonstrators’ determination to remain where they are.
“It certainly wouldn’t be tactics or methodologies that we would endorse, and it’s something we would have preferred did not occur,” Parnell told Radio New Zealand.
Parnell urged protesters who arrived as part of a convoy last week to move vehicles that were still blocking streets. He also defended the hands-off approach adopted by police since Thursday, when officers tried to forcibly clear the lawns, resulting in violent clashes and more than 120 arrests.
“This is not a matter of… arresting your way out of it,” he said, calling on protest organisers to negotiate in good faith.
While the original convoy was promoted as a demonstration against vaccine mandates, Ardern said it was clearly now being dominated by anti-vaccination activists.
“What we’ve seen out there seems to be much more anti-vaccination than anything else,” she told TV3. “It’s included yelling abuse at people who are walking around with masks on… there are signs calling for the execution of politicians… we’ve seen some horrific behaviour down there.”
Ardern declined to comment on the musical anti-protest stunt, but opposition figures criticised parliamentary speaker Trevor Mallard for approving the action. “Mallard’s actions are unedifying, embarrassing and ineffective,” National party lawmaker Chris Bishop tweeted.
Opposition ACT Party leader David Seymour accused Mallard of “acting like a kid” and fuelling a siege mentality among the protesters. “Not only are Mallard’s antics immature, not only are they ineffective, they have made a serious situation much worse,” he said. “His petty behaviour has only encouraged the protesters further.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: SKY NEWS