A group of Rotorua protesters do not want the Government telling them what to do. Photo / David BeckA group of Rotorua protesters do not want the Government telling them what to do. Photo / David Beck

Police were out in force across New Zealand today as hundreds turned out for anti-lockdown demonstrations.

A large crowd filled Auckland’s Aotea Square this afternoon despite the city being at alert level 2.5 which restricts gatherings to a maximum of 10 people.

Banners declaring, “Fight for your rights and freedom” and “No more lockdowns” were waved, while one child protester clutched a sign which depicted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as Adolf Hitler.

Other protests were held in Whangarei, Wellington, New Plymouth, Tauranga, Rotorua, Nelson and Christchurch.

Police monitored protest events and took “an educative approach with attendees and organisers when necessary”, Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said.

“Police monitoring the protest action across the country today were satisfied with the levels of compliance.

“It was pleasing to see the organisers of today’s protests made an effort to ensure participants complied with the level 2 guidelines.”

No enforcement action was required.

Chambers added that while police recognise people’s lawful right to protest, they would be continuing to encourage protesters to adhere to the current Covid-19 alert level 2 restrictions and “do their part” to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Ardern yesterday urged New Zealanders to stick to social distancing and other coronavirus rules over the weekend. She said there would be a “highly visible” police presence at places people congregate, including bars and restaurants.

In Rotorua today, many of the protesters claimed to be supporters of the Advance NZ political party.

The signs they carried covered a range of topics including “freedom is essential”, “it’s not about your health, it’s about control”, “paedophilia the real virus” and “ban 1080”.

One of the organisers, Crystaline Verhagen, said the protest was a freedom march for all of Rotorua.

“It’s against lockdown and it’s about our freedom to be able to choose if we want vaccinations, if we want 5G and if we want to be in lockdown,” Verhagen said.

“It’s only the flu season, there’s no need for lockdowns, there’s no need for masks. People are actually killing themselves by wearing masks because they’re breathing in their own toxins.

“[The Government] just want us all sick, that’s why they’re asking us to do it, to become more sick. If masks work, why do we need to be two metres apart? I haven’t taken medicine for 30 years and we’re healthy people, we don’t take vaccinations and we filter our water.”