Yesterday’s anti-vaccine protests have come as researchers find that there is increasing violence and antisemitism in the rhetoric of the anti-vax movement.

But despite the Destiny Church’s Freedom and Rights Coalition colourful and large-scale anti-vax protest at Parliament yesterday, the movement has suffered a massive defeat in the Courts.

The High Court has found that mandatory vaccinations do not breach the Bill of Rights Act.

Mandatory vaccinations were the main focus of yesterday’s protest at Parliament.

Meanwhile, the anti-vax protesters are using more violent language to get their message across.

There is growing controversy over the anti-vax movements likening the Government’s restrictions on unvaccinated people to the persecution and killing of the Jews by the Nazis.

One “host” of a live feed linked to by the right-wing BFD website yesterday claimed that the Prime Minister was sitting in the Beehive preparing a “final solution” for unvaccinated people; a reference to the Nazi’s extermination in death camps of six million Jews which was dubbed the “final solution.”

Disinformation

The University of Auckland’s Te Punaha Matatini centre yesterday produced a report on Covid Disinformation which  was based on a study of  “a large number of publicly available groups, pages, and accounts within Aotearoa’s disinformation ecology.”

The report was produced by researchers Kate Hannah, Sanjana Hattotuwa and Kayli Taylor.

“The platforms we observe include, but are not limited to: Telegram, Facebook Pages, Facebook Groups, Facebook accounts, Instagram, Twitter and any sign-posted, off-platform content harbours, like the .nz top-level domain, other websites and platforms like Rumble, Odysee, Gab, and Gettr,” the authors say.

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And they have observed a major change since the Auckland lockdown began in August.

“We have observed a critical shift from vaccine hesitancy to vaccine resistance within the core groups we study on Telegram,” they say.

“We have observed more content which connects events in Aotearoa New Zealand with the Q conspiracy and with far-right conspiratorial narratives more generally.

“These include white supremacist, incel  (involuntary celibate) or extreme misogyny, Islamophobia and anti-migrant sentiment, and antisemitism.

“We have also observed increasing levels of anti-Māori racism.”

They said the content ranged from the humorous re-purposing of known memes to explicit sexist and racist content, imagery of death and execution, and historic imagery from the Holocaust, the Cold War, and other violent or extremist events.

“Nazi references, written, spoken or visually expressed, are normative in many of these online ecologies studied, and have become increasingly so since 17 August 2021.”

Kristallnacht

For the New Zealand Jewish community, the presence of the Nazi imagery at the Parliamentary protest yesterday was a particularly bitter reminder of the fate that had befallen their community in Europe during the Second World War because it was the anniversary of one of the Key Holocaust events.

“Today all around the world, we commemorate Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, which marked the start of the Holocaust; on 9 November 1938, Nazi leaders attacked Jewish people, and property leaving the streets strewn with broken glass, synagogues ablaze and Jewish people violently targeted,” said New Zealand Holocaust Centre chair, Deborah Hart.

“Over 80 years later here in New Zealand, we are seeing the Star of David being misused for “freedom” protests and protestors invoking the Holocaust for their own ends.

“Protests equating what the Government is doing to protect New Zealand citizens with the Holocaust are ill-founded on a false equivalence and an ignorance of what the Holocaust entailed.  

“Nothing in New Zealand comes even close to the atrocities carried out, on an industrial scale, by the Nazis. To make the comparison trivialises the Holocaust and diminishes the enormity of what the Nazis did. 

“The comparisons are grotesque and deeply hurtful to Holocaust survivors and their families.” 

The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand condemns the use of the Star of David, a symbol embodying the Jewish people in recent protest action.  Ms Hart said, “The Star of David is a beloved emblem of the Jewish people.

“It is bad enough that it was exploited by the Nazis to single out Jews for persecution, but now in a move of appalling cultural misappropriation, it’s being corrupted by the anti-vax movement for its own ends. 

“The protest movement and protestors should leave the Star of David where it belongs, with the Jewish people.”

Pregnant women

The Te Punaha Matatini study also noted the way the anti-vax movement targeted women, particularly pregnant women.

“Cherry-picked medicinal and scientific data is shared to support vaccine hesitancy,” the report says.

“This particularly targets people who menstruate and pregnant people.”

The study found that one cluster relied on fears experienced by pregnant people around vaccination to fuel distrust.

The Ministry of Health is taking a hardline on pregnant women who refuse to be vaccinated and then claim a medical exemption.

POLITIK has obtained the Ministry of Health’s draft guidelines for the clinical criteria for Vaccine Temporary Medical Exemption.

These state that pregnancy will not be criteria for exemption.

The guidelines say pregnancy is not a valid reason for exemption unless the applicant has other conditions such as anaphylaxis or a range of cardiac events following initial vaccination.

“Pregnancy is associated with higher risk from COVID-19 compared to the general population, and therefore this group are a priority for vaccination,” the guidelines say.

Yesterday’s protest certainly demonstrated the ability of the Destiny Church to bring a large crowd to Wellington, but given that within the country’s total population,  89 per cent of those eligible to be vaccinated have received at least one dose, the overall numbers are running against the protesters.

Anti-vaxers lose at High Court

Meanwhile, in the High Court, Judge Francis Cooke has thrown out an appeal by four Aviation Security Service Employees seeking to overturn their dismissal for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid.

The employees were represented by high-profile anti-vaxer Sue Grey, who is also the co-leader of the Outdoors Party which campaigns not only against Covid vaccinations but also 5G and 1080.

Ms Grey was at yesterday’s protest at Parliament.

She called two well-known participants in the anti-vax debate to present evidence on behalf of the security officers; anti-vax Methven GP, Dr Sophie Febery and Auckland University Public Health epidemiologist Simon Thornley. He has previously been associated with Grey in the promotion of the so-called “Plan B”, which argued that Covid’s seriousness was over-rated and did not warrant the extreme ‘elimination’ and lockdown strategy of the Government.

Cooke roundly dismissed Grey’s case.

“I have carefully considered the applicants’ challenge,” he said.

“That has included a consideration of Dr Febery’s evidence, and particularly the publications and scientific papers that she put forward in her reply affidavit directed to the efficacy of the vaccine and its impact on transmission. 

“I have also considered Dr Thornley’s evidence. 

“I do not accept the applicants’ challenge that the vaccine is experimental, unproven, unsafe and that it has little effect on transmission.

“ I am satisfied that the vaccine is safe and effective, is significantly beneficial in preventing symptomatic infection of COVID19 including the Delta variant, and that it significantly reduces serious illness, hospitalisation and death. 

“I also accept that it is likely to materially assist in preventing the risk of an outbreak or the spread of COVID-19 originating from border workers having contact with potentially infected persons from overseas. 

He went on to say that he accepted that the requirement that border security officers be vaccinated was demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. 

The decision is important because it will fortify the position of the Government when it introduces the amendments to the Epidemic Preparedness Act to allow businesses to bar unvaccinated workers or visitors which Auckland businesses say they need by the end of the month.

But Cooke also dealt with the challenge to the Bill of Rights Act that the mandate decision raised.

Section 11 of the Act provides that “Everyone has the right to refuse to undergo any medical treatment.”

To decide whether the decision breached that section, he said the Court needed to consider whether the mandate served a purpose sufficiently important to justify curtailment of the right or freedom.

Both Grey and Thornley argued, again, that the harm from Covid has been overstated.

“Overall, the conclusion that is properly drawn from all the evidence is that the vaccine is effective at reducing the transmission of the earlier variants of the virus and that it is also effective at reducing symptomatic infection and the detrimental effects of the Delta variant,” he concluded.

“For those two related reasons, it is likely to be effective at reducing the transmission of the Delta variant.”

The Judge found that the compulsory vaccination of the workers served a purpose

sufficiently important to justify curtailment of the Bill of Rights provision, saying that they had the right to refuse medical treatment.

However, he issued what amounted to a warning to the Government suggesting that legislation might be useful in confirming the kind of decision he made.

“I also note that given the uncertainties about the effect of the vaccine in reducing transmission, it remains surprising that vaccination measures of this kind have not been addressed in primary legislation,” he said.

“There are limits on the legitimate use of generally expressed powers for measures that have very significant impacts, including impacts that involve limitation of fundamental rights, in order to implement key national policies.”

Nevertheless, Cooke’s judgement will now stand as the definitive answer to those who would oppose mandatory vaccination.

The anti-vax movement’s big day actually ended in a massive defeat.