Thousands of protesters in New Zealand have protested against their government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates and forced lockdowns in the country.
While the demonstration was peaceful, many people were seen holding signs and placards with messages like “Freedom” and “Kiwis are not lab rats” and shouting slogans as they demanded the government roll back compulsory vaccination and lift restrictions.
Placards showing support to former U.S. President Donald Trump and slamming the media as “fake” and lying were also displayed.
“I will not be coerced and I will not be forced into taking something I don’t want in my body,” a protester said outside parliament.
“I’m asking (the government) to give us back 2018. Simple as that. I want my freedom back.”
“Treat us like people!” another protester exclaimed when asked about the government’s stance on mandating the vaccine.
“I’m here for freedom. The government, what they’re doing, is anti-freedom.”
Speaking to reporters inside parliament, Ardern said: “What we saw today was not representative of the vast bulk of New Zealanders.”
But the prime minister has been facing growing political pressure and public protests to ease pandemic measures ahead of the Christmas holidays.
She plans to travel to Auckland on Wednesday when the lockdown measures enforced on the city nearly three months ago eases. She is expected to face more protests during her visit.
New Zealand still has among the lowest COVID-19 cases in the world with under 8,000 cases reported so far and 32 deaths. It reported 125 new cases on Tuesday and its total double-dose vaccination rate had reached nearly 80% of its eligible population.