Newmarket’s retail boss Mark Knoff-Thomas has called the group of 2000 anti-mandate protesters who today marched down Broadway “dickheads” for ruining one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
On the first Saturday of the new traffic light system with all the shops, bars, restaurants and gyms up and running for the first time since August, Knoff-Thomas said it was meant to be “one of those golden days” in the run-up to Christmas.
“To all of those mindless New Zealanders demanding ‘freedom’ and protesting through the streets of Newmarket right now – causing shops to shut their doors, on what should be our busiest Saturday for months – all you have done is hurt small business owners with your deluded protest. Shameful. You utter dickheads,” he posted on social media.
Protesters on the march today towards Newmarket's shopping precinct. Photo / Tom Dillane
Knoff-Thomas told the Herald there were a lot of ropeable retailers in Newmarket today, saying the area was pumping before the protest passed through.
“They have ruined a day that could have been a superb day for us and a much-needed day to get money back into people’s tills,” he said.
The Newmarket Business Association chief executive said everyone has the right to protest, but it should not be brought into a town centre and cause havoc, slow traffic and disrupt trade.
“It’s s****y behaviour, really s****y behaviour,” Knoff-Thomas said.
The protesters, who earlier today gathered at Auckland Domain, reached Newmarket’s biggest mall 277 chanting “Jacinda must go”.
Protesters arrive at Government House in Epsom today. Photo / Tom Dillane
With a helicopter hovering overhead, the protest then headed to the Governor General’s Auckland home – Government House in Epsom.
Business owners and other members of the public could be seen in shop windows staring bemusedly at the thousands of people blocking the Newmarket roads.
Anti-mandate protesters march through the streets of Newmarket today. Photo / Michael Craig
It was the first time people had congregated to object to the vaccine mandate since Aucklanders got their freedom yesterday.
Strict lockdown preventing hospitality from opening ended yesterday after 107 days in the city of 1.7 million people.
Today’s rally was promoted online as the “Mass Exodus” and the protesters began meeting at Auckland Domain at 11am before marching through the streets of Newmarket.
Chants of “freedom” at the Domain rally got the crowd clapping this morning.
It was the sixth time protesters had gathered at the Domain since the beginning of October.
Thousands of protesters at the Auckland Domain under alert level 3 rules and on vaccination Super Saturday. Photo / NZ Herald
A teacher spoke over the PA about how the situation “really hit home” this week with unvaccinated people being unable to buy a coffee in a cafe and purchase other items.
Brian Tamaki’s brother then took the stage. “I love you my brother,” he said.
He said Brian and Hannah Tamaki would not be in attendance today, but they got a round of applause at what appeared to be a smaller police presence than at previous protests.
The MC asked people to march together to Newmarket’s shopping mall 277. From there they would march to the Governor General’s house.
The police said today’s protest was a peaceful protest that was self-managed with marshals in conjunction with police.
The crowd at the lockdown protest at Auckland Domain in previous weeks. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The activity did disrupt traffic as the group moved from the Auckland Domain through Newmarket to Government House in Epsom, but there were no arrests or incidents of note, a police spokeswoman said.
She said the focus today remained on balancing the safety of all protesters and the public, with the right to peacefully protest.
For the third time in less than two months, controversial Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki was called before a judge on November 23 regarding new allegations he violated Covid-19 lockdown orders.
Protesters made plans to gather for the first time since Aucklanders got their freedom yesterday. Photo / Brett Phibbs
However, he was allowed to remain on bail with altered bail conditions that bar him explicitly from attending protests at Auckland Domain.
Auckland District Court Judge Steve Bonnar QC, clearly showing frustration, issued the decision hours after Brian Tamaki was summoned to an Auckland police station alongside wife and church co-founder Hannah Tamaki.
“You have been skating on very thin ice today,” the judge said. “I have seriously considered whether you should be remanded in custody.”
The anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine mandate protesters have previously met in Auckland Domain on October 2, 16 and 30 and November 20 and 27.