Cyclone Duffy, which caused power outages, landslides and evacuations across New Zealand on Sunday, did not deter anti-vaccine protesters who have been camping outside Parliament for six days.
Hundreds of them, inspired by the anti-health restrictions of Canadian truck drivers, danced in the mud to the tunes of music meant to drive them apart.
Even British singer James Blunt’s offer to negotiate failed to end the impasse in which the Wellington authorities found themselves.
France Press agency
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson acknowledged on television that every New Zealander had the right to peaceful protest, but said these protesters “go far beyond that right”.
“I find the rhetoric of this protest very disturbing…there is something sad about it, there is an element of conspiracy theory that people got into,” he said.
Like Canadian truck drivers paralyzing the capital, Ottawa, New Zealand protesters are opposing the government’s strict anti-COVID measures and demanding an end to required vaccinations for people working in certain sectors such as health.
France Press agency
Their resolve appears to have been strengthened after the police intervened on Thursday, which led to the arrest of 122 people.
Since then, the police have abandoned making arrests and the authorities have tried to discourage them by operating automatic machine guns.
But even before Hurricane Duffy landed, the lawns around Parliament had turned into a vast swamp.
Superintendent Scott Fraser said police were continuing to “explore options to solve the problem”, while Parliament Speaker Trevor Mallard played music including “Macarena” and government messages about COVID-19 to protesters.
They responded by broadcasting their favorite songs.
On Twitter, singer James Blunt offered his services to the police: “Tell me if it doesn’t work.”
Meanwhile, as winds of up to 130 kilometers per hour swept Wellington and other parts of the archipelago, police asked people to avoid non-essential travel. Many roads were cut off due to landslides. North Wellington, homes were evacuated.
Several areas suffered power outages, and firefighters responded by falling trees on homes and power lines, flying roofs and flooding.
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