A look at the ongoing convoy protest in parliament grounds in Wellington, New Zealand/Aotearoa.
By Pink Panther
They call it Freedom Convoy 2022.
They claim it’s all about freedom.
A mishmash of groups who are fighting for contradictory “freedoms” have been camped in and around the New Zealand Parliament in Wellington since February 6th.
They range from Maori nationalists to New Age conspiracy theorists, white supremacists to religious fundamentalists, and other fringe groups including the extreme right sovereign citizen movement. Their flags flutter everywhere. Their banners, which peddle pseudo-science and conspiracy ‘theories’, litter the grounds of Parliament and decorate many of the vehicles that are blocking key roads around it. Inflammatory rhetoric, including calls to kill leading politicians and journalists, is being broadcast online and repeated in banners and posters. Their vitriol is clear for anyone who is walking past Parliament. Yet, because there is a variety of motivations for involvement, some are not aligned with dodgy groups and many of the protesters are counter-culture and anti-Establishment types who are upset about vaccination mandates, some Anarchists and others on the Left have decided to support the protesters.
Those Lefties are misguided.
Just because some protesters are dancing to Bob Marley and smoking joints doesn’t make their involvement defensible. It doesn’t mean we give the whole thing our endorsement. It doesn’t make the conspiracies any more acceptable. The anti-Semitic claptrap about the Rothschilds bankrolling the mainstream media, Bill Gates and Jacinda Ardern being part of a plot to use the Covid-19 vaccination programme to microchip the world’s population and that the pandemic was planned by “the deep state” or similar bogeyman lurking in the background.
Let’s not forget we are in the midst of a pandemic that has killed over 5.877 million people worldwide. It has crippled health systems around the world as they’ve been overwhelmed with patients. Normally, I would be the first to protest against the imposition of any laws that curtail our freedoms to move about and to gather with others, including comrades, family and friends. However, this is one exceptional time when we probably need to accept the necessity of such restrictions, with caveats. As long as the restrictions are proven by relevantly qualified scientific experts to be essential and are restricted to as short a time as necessary, so that the Covid-19 virus can be combated and its spread curtailed as much as is practical.
This does not mean we should simply accept whatever the powers-that-be are saying. Our point of view should be rooted in the implication of the science, not influenced by the additional agenda of the state. We must do everything in our power to make sure that they do not use the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to broadly crack down on civil liberties and human rights, as has happened in countries like Brazil, China and Hungary. On this point the anti-vaccination protesters do have a valid point. There should be some indication as to when the mandates could be lifted that can be measured, such as the number of cases coming down to less than ten a day for a month. We must retain our critical independence.
There is also the thorny question of how to address the many tangata whenua/indigenous people of the land who have joined the ranks of the protesters. Should we be supporting them? On this occasion the answer is a blunt no.
Local iwi/tribes have condemned the protests and the use of Maori sovereignty flags by the protesters. The key reason is because of the number of Maori who have died in past pandemics because they weren’t vaccinated and because Maori soldiers who fought overseas in the Second World War were vaccinated. To oppose vaccinations is seen as dishonouring those ancestors. (Wellington’s Tangata Whenua want protesters to leave, Stuff, February 17th, 2022.) In response, many of the Maori protesters have condemned these leaders – and Maori who oppose them – as traitors, especially on Twitter.
When it comes to addressing how to deal with Covid-19 we must let the science and facts do the talking. Those facts include:
1. The Pfizer vaccine, along with other Covid-19 vaccines, were developed from existing SARS vaccines because Covid-19 is a variant of the SARS virus. (It’s officially called the severe respiratory syndrome coronations 2 or SARS-CoV-2.) It’s not an experimental medicine or vaccination in which we’re all unwilling guinea pigs.
2. As of January 31st, 2022, a total of 9,461,496 vaccinations were administered in New Zealand. 49,412 resulted in non-serious side effects and 2,460 resulted in serious side effects. That’s 0.54% of doses that resulted in any side effects. (Source: Medsafe.)
3. Comparing New Zealand’s death rates on a per capita basis our Covid-19 current death rate is the lowest in the OECD and in actual numbers. This is due almost entirely to the lockdowns and severe restrictions on entering and leaving this country.
4. There are no 100% guarantees that a person won’t get Covid-19 if they are fully vaccinated. I personally have a friend who got Covid-19 despite being double vaccinated. However, this does not mean people shouldn’t get vaccinated because it does protect over 95% of those who get the Pfizer vaccination from getting Covid-19. (Source: Comparing the Covid-19 vaccines: How are they different? Kathy Katella, Yale University, January 31st, 2022.)
5. Homeopathy, alternative or traditional “medicines” and various super foods will not prevent anyone from getting Covid-19. Just because something isn’t manufactured by Big Pharma it doesn’t make it safe.
Looking at the class composition of the protest, there is no doubt a range of people involved. Regardless of who is involved, those who are unemployed have lost their jobs because they have refused to take a vaccine that is free, widely available, has been around a while, has caused limited severe reactions, has been thoroughly tested and which will keep them out of hospital. It’s not mandatory to get the vaccination. However, as with all things, not getting vaccinated carries consequences.
It’s also not just about them. They often talk about herd immunity to validate their arguments. Herd immunity is not about protecting selfish people who refuse to get vaccinated. In part its about protecting those who can’t get vaccinated for genuine medical reasons, such as cancer patients with compromised immune systems and people with diseases like Hashimoto Disease that compromise their immune system.
You can sometimes do good things for poor reasons. Perhaps some people have become vaccinated out of fear of the government. Though I doubt there are many real people like that. I think and hope the best among us who have been fully vaccinated and got our boosters aren’t doing it because of government instructions or mandates. We did it because the science stands up and we actually give a damn about our communities, our comrades and our families and friends. We’re vaccinated to protect others, not just ourselves. Not all the participants of the protest are anti-vaxx. There are some who are double vaxxed but oppose the mandates. To them I’d say a better approach than joining the convoy would be to convince their unvaccinated friends to get vaccinated and thus take the teeth out of the mandates. This convoy protest highlights a clash between ideologies that are solipsistic and selfish and those with a sense of fundamental social, collective responsibility.
And that is the problem with the protests outside Parliament.
When Anarchists march to Parliament it is because we are advocating for a greater cause than ourselves. We join a hikoi because we want to see change aimed at improving (or radically changing) society for the betterment of working people. We march because we oppose wars of neo-colonialism and imperialism. We march because we are appalled by various “isms”, such as racism and sexism, that have blighted the world.
What we don’t engage in a hikoi for, is the “freedom” to do whatever the hell you want, to peddle conspiracies largely devoid of any proven facts and to ignore and undermine science.
Just because some of those protesters are listening to Bob Marley while smoking weed or belong to the working classes it doesn’t make them harmless. The fact they’re willing to stand side by side with racist and religious bigots peddling harmful conspiracies, means these people have made poor choices. Tailing uncritically behind such participants is not the answer. The wero/challenge this situation throws down for us is to offer better alternatives rooted in science, logic and true transnational solidarity. It is a perspective that should also not just silently fall in with the government but challenges the state from a principled view where we can on this issue. It is one that simultaneously continues to challenge the government on other issues such as rising food, fuel and rent prices etc and other harmful aspects of the capitalist system the state props up. The people in the protest are not idiots, they’ve made bad choices and its partly because we haven’t done a good enough job of suggesting something better. Rather than join the current protest, we should be putting our efforts into that. Anarchists should oppose the protest, oppose the government and build better social and economic alternatives to either.