It seemed that by last night the Police had abandoned any intention of immediately moving Parliament’s protest, “Camp Freedom”, on.
Perhaps as evidence of that, Parliament’s Speaker, Trevor Mallard, decided to go to his Wainuiomata home rather than stay in the Speaker’s flat where he has been since last Thursday.
The only sign of movement came when the Wellington District Commander appealed late yesterday to protesters to move the cars currently blocking roads round Parliament, but by 8.00 p.m., nothing had moved.
That may be because many protesters are sleeping in the vans and trucks that form the bulk of the vehicles blocking the roads.
A defiant symbol of the semi-permanence of the protest was on the steps of the Court of Appeal, over the road from Parliament, where tents had been set up and which by last night was sporting a washing line.
As the weather improved yesterday afternoon, more protesters arrived, some carrying bedding.
Pedestrian access to Parliament’s lawns is unrestricted, and protesters have kept one road leading to Parliament open so trucks carrying food and water may access the main protest camp.
The same road serves the Backbencher pub, which remains closed.
As evening came last night, the protest had begun to resemble a 1970s style counter-culture festival with about 30 Hare Krishna chanting and dancing in a circle and a large portrait of Bob Marley pasted on the Dick Seddon statue.
Food tents were doing brisk business, and there was much talk of “peace and love”.
One middle-aged bearded man who said he had never seen so much love told POLITIK that he would stay till Jacinda Ardern went and Winston Peters was brought in to replace her.
(He also said he had seen spoons stick to people after they had been vaccinated.)
But there is no overall message though anti-vaccination is a strong theme. However, there are signs and posters dealing with everything from Pike River to “corporate greed” and Invectin and 1080.
Some protesters gathered small crowds as they outlined claims that Covid vaccines had killed a member of their family or a friend.
But behind the scenes, on the protest TV stream, Counterspin media, darker forces were evident.
There were also suggestions of growing differences among the organised groups that are participating in the protest.
The host of the Counterspinmedia stream, Hannah Spierer, complained yesterday that the Freedom and Rights Coalition, which is led by “Apostle” Brian Tamaki, had left the protest and was not being honest about its intention to form a political party.
“We do know that they have suggested in the past they want to start a political party, and if that’s what they want to do, they need to be honest about it and upfront and just put your cards on the table and just say this is about the truth and honesty, and it’s not about trying to come through the back door,” she said.
Spierer, who is the partner of right-wing extremist and self-appointed protest leader, Kelvyn Alp, was clearly concerned yesterday that the protest might splinter and some groups might seek to negotiate with the Police.
“People need to realise there’s a much bigger fight going on,” she said.
“This is not our Kumbaya moment, OK, this is the time where people need to still hold the line and stay strong.”
Alp himself was warning that the Covid restrictions were just the start of heavy-handed Government actions.
“We’re digging in, and we’re staying put no matter what until this regime falls,” he said on Counterspinmedia last night.
“Because remember, you let them off now they’re going to come back again.
“Climate change is going to be pushed next.
“They’ll have climate change lockdowns. They’ve got a lot in store for you, and it’s all bad.”
Alp claimed that the Government in the Beehive, or “Parasite Palace’ as he calls it, was funded from abroad and that all Prime Ministers, National and Labour, had secret foreign bank accounts.
He called on the military to come and help the protest.
“It’s high time the military came in and actually protected the people,” he said.
“That’s your job defending the country, defending its people.”
The leaders of all Parliament’s political parties are refusing to negotiate with the protesters, but there was a hint of frustration in the Prime Minister’s reply to questions about the lack of police action at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media conference.
“We have course shared our concerns with the police around the fact that we want people to be able to move freely and safely, and that is a big focus for us, and we’ve relayed that to them,” she said.
“Ultimately, the decisions around the security arrangements and the movement of people fall on the New Zealand Police, but we have raised with them our concerns that Wellingtonians and anyone in the vicinity, not just politicians, but everyone should be able to move around freely and safely.
“And that really is when a protest moves from being a protest to being a source of harassment and intimidation.”
There was little evidence last evening of the protesters harassing people. POLITIK saw one suited Wellingtonian wearing a face mask walk quite happily up Molesworth Street without any interaction with the protesters.
That, along with the frustration evident on the Counterspinmedia Livestream plus the general festival atmosphere of the protest, suggests that it is losing its focus and becoming an anti-establishment, counter-culture festival.