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‘Freedom’ protests a worry


Over the past two weeks, on a Wednesday evening, I've driven past a small gathering of protesters near the Gladstone Road bridge.

These cheerful individuals look like they are having a really nice time hanging out together waving what look like the back of real estate signs with some really funny slogans on them, including: “Free to be free”, “Free to parent” and “Free to be me”.

Almost all these “freedom” protesters appear to be Maori.

I drive past shaking my head.

Who is telling these happy sign wavers they are not free to parent, or be themselves, or know they are free?

What bothers me about the protest is these protesters are Maori and Maori are at the greatest risk from Covid-19. Although the signs they wave don't seem to say anything about Covid-19, I feel that what they are implying is that they think they are not free to get Covid if they want to.

So I'm wondering . . .

Why, based on past experiences of Maori with the smallpox epidemic in 1915 and the influenza pandemic of 1918, not to mention the polio epidemic, would any Maori want to catch Covid?

Who benefits if lots of Maori catch Covid then get really sick or die? Do the protesters realise they might be happy-clapping their way into hospital or worse? Will the people encouraging them to resist good medical advice even care?

I think some very racist and dangerous people must be driving these protests.

Lara Meyer

  1. Richard Whitley says:

    There is a saying in politics, never ask a question without first knowing the answer.

    You might like to do a little research on The Freedom and Rights Coalition NZ, ​who leads it and who makes up the vast proportion of its membership.

    The danger with searching for racists under your bed at night, seeing them behind every curtain and lurking in every shadow is, it makes you jump to irrational and ill thought out conclusions.

    Unless you are part octopus, you are in danger of running out of feet to put in your ample mouth.

    1. Lara says:

      Oh there you are Richard, come out from under the bed I see. Perhaps lured by a tentacle?
      I looked at the Facebook page of the group you mentioned in your reply and the people interested in it make up a measly 0.38% of New Zealand. So I’m not sure you have a ‘vast’ of anything. And half of them are probably moderators for Facebook or bored folks looking for a laugh. Since you all seem so calm and happy.

      1. Richard Whitley says:

        Lured out by the complete ignorance on display on your part in not understanding that The Freedom & Rights Coalition NZ was established by people who are Maori, the same ones you have described as “very racist and dangerous people”…..oh dear.

        The organizers of the recent “freedom picnic” in Gisborne also happened to be Maori… vastly so….oh dear.

        So if those “happy-clappers” you see protesting are Maori and those “encouraging them to do so” are also Maori, then how is that “racist”?

        1. Lara says:

          Just because a very small group of Maori people are organising protests in defence of the right to put their lives, and their wider whanau at great risk doesn’t demonstrate that they are ‘behind’ them at all.
          The fact that you, a pakeha, are vehemently defending their right to catch a deadly disease and attacking me for noticing is evidence enough that malignant forces are at play here.
          I repeat, this is a dangerous game that will cause suffering and deaths.
          Is that what you want? Maori people to die of Covid?

          1. Richard Whitley says:

            I’ve said nothing of the content of their protest, or indicated, anywhere a defense of it, those words, the ones you’ve wrongly attempted to accredit to me are your own.

            So stop trying to deflect from the buggers muddle of accusations you have made and answer the question, if those you see protesting are Maori and those encouraging them to do so are also Maori, then how is that “racist”?

        2. Lara says:

          I think Richard that if you dig a little deeper, as journalist David Farrier has, you will find that mega churches like City Impact Church in Auckland are the driving force behind the protesters. The head pastor is a pakeha, very right wing politically and encouraging vulnerable people to put their lives in danger.
          Here is a link to a recent article he wrote.

          1. Richard Whitley says:

            Already read it.

            And you have handily focused on the personal hate crusade that Farrier has going against a bit player in the movement.
            Tell everyone who the main driver of the coalition is, how many members they have, how many branches (including internationally) they have and that the vast majority of their membership is Maori.

            Then go down to the next event they organise locally, front them, pat them all condescendingly on the head and tell them that the opinions they hold are not their own, that they can’t think for themselves, that they are too stupid for that, because, racism.

            Then report back, let us know how they feel about your sentiments.

          2. Aimee says:

            Hi Lara,
            I subscribe to David Farrier’s newsletter and his latest one covers the City Impact church again. Very interesting, and I’m not sure what Richard is talking about. It’s a well researched, well written blog, not a hate campaign. Apparently, Richard’s idea of ‘hate speech’ appears to be anything people say against right wing politics. Quite sensitive…much like Tanith’s comparison in a previous column.

    2. Aimee Milne says:

      Sorry, what, Richard? Your mouth is so full of tentacles your voice is muffled. It’s not Lara who needs to “do her research.”
      There is plenty of evidence as to who is behind the weaponisation of that valid distrust of the system. While you’re researching that, maybe look into the bias boogeymen lurking under your bed.

  2. John Adams says:


    The majority of worldwide protests have been by White People, a significantly large population of the anti vax protests have been White Republican Trump supporting Americans.

    So is this some global conspiracy to kill Maori and Trump supporters? If so who could possibly gain from such a coordinated attack….

    Stop looking for the big bad white man in everything, there is enough actual discrimination and racism against Maori that we do not need to make it up.

    I am normally in support of your Pro Vax and extra support for healthcare agenda but not in this way.

    1. Lara says:

      Peter Mortlock, senior pastor of the City Impact Churches in NZ is a founding member of the freedom and rights coalition here in NZ.
      When one looks at the website of this Freedom and Rights Coalition, there is no way to tell who is behind the movement. However, by his own admission, in his ‘sermons’, he admits he is very involved behind the scenes. He has very close ties to the alt right churches you refer to and to the Hillsong church in Australia. He uses Brian Tamaki to ‘fire his bullets’ as we all witnessed with that ridiculous display held in Auckland the other week.
      Peter Mortlock and Brian Tamaki, are encouraging people to risk their lives by remaining unvaccinated. I want to know how these two con men benefit if Maori people choose to remain unvaccinated. Because Brian and Peter don’t do anything without a reason.

      1. John Adams says:

        They stand to gain by people being reliant on them for information, information means connections and donations.

        They don’t care if Maori (or anyone) get sick, they just want people to listen to them. The easiest way to do that is by actually having something to say and thus going against the grain gets support.

        This is not an Anti-Maori movement.

        1. Lara says:

          It is Maori who are falling for the misinformation being pedalled by these church groups and their affiliates and it is going to be Maori who pay the ultimate price.
          Of the 71 Covid cases reported yesterday, nearly half (31) are Maori.
          Peter Mortlock and Brian Tamaki are dangerous charlatans.
          Here in Gisborne, Destiny Church affiliated pastor Leighton Packer is encouraging Maori to protest. Does she also want to unleash hell?
          If the local pastors like her have a moral compass, they will encourage their congregations to get vaccinated not encourage them to put their lives at risk.

        2. Aimee Milne says:

          Hi John,
          Lara and many others agree that the anti vax movement is a racist one. This was an interesting article for starters but there are many more links to support what Lara is saying https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2021/07/the-inherent-racism-of-anti-vaxx-movements/

          1. John Adams says:


            Please explain the WHITE republicans that are protesting constantly. The White Supremacist Australian Group that are proudly anti vax?

            Stating Lara and many others believe is not really good evidence. Many people believe in a lot of stupid things. Lots of people thing horse de-wormer will save them from Covid. Just because lots of people agree doesn’t make it right.

          2. Aimee Milne says:

            Yes John, that’s right. You just proved my point. Nice own goal

  3. Oryan Mclean, Rotorua says:

    This entire letter is racist. Assuming they are all Maori.

    1. Lara says:

      Kia Ora Oryan,
      E korero ana au nga hui tohengia ki runga Tairawhiti.
      I can only speak about the protests I see here in my town. Everyone was Maori. I am worried about the health of those people. Which groups are protesting elsewhere? Not sure.
      Not sure why you think it is racist of me to be concerned about Maori people in my community.
      Nga mihi

      1. Richard Whitley says:

        How did you get on down at the Freedom Picnic yesterday?
        Did you front the Maori organizers and call them out on their racism?

        1. Aimee Milne says:

          What’s your point Richard? Be more specific

        2. Lara says:

          Here is a 3 minute snippet from a researcher Kate Hannah who spoke on RNZ this morning about the source of Covid 19 disinformation. She touched on the drivers of the misinformation.
          She said the very few people pushing harmful disinformation are also climate change deniers, linked to the alt right and they promote racism. I believe her. Paste the link and have a listen.

          1. Richard Whitley says:

            So let’s have a recap of your position.

            “I can only speak about the protests I see here in my town”

            “Which groups are protesting elsewhere? Not sure”

            “I think some very racist and dangerous people must be driving these protests”

            “Here in Gisborne, Destiny Church affiliated pastor Leighton Packer is encouraging Maori to protest”

            So now when you confront Leighton Packer, the organizer of the Gisborne Freedom Picnics (who is Maori) and call her out on her “racism” will you also accuse her of being a “right wing climate denier”?