Nineteen people protesting the lockdown in New Zealand were arrested on Tuesday for breaching Covid-19-related restrictions, the national 1News broadcaster reported.
The protesters were arrested in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Whanganui, Christchurch, and Taupo.
“While protest is a normal feature of a well-functioning democracy, police have a low tolerance for anyone who deliberately ignores the restrictions in the current situation. Today’s arrests reflect that,” a police spokesperson told the media.
Alert Level 4, standing for the highest level of danger from the coronavirus, was imposed several times across New Zealand, with the latest on August 17. On Tuesday, the country moved to Alert Level 3, except for Auckland and Northland.
On Tuesday morning New Zealand police arrested 19 people during what they described as a series of “small” demonstrations outside government and local council buildings.
Among those arrested was Karen Brewer, an Australian-born conspiracy theorist who has pushed a series of fringe and baseless ideas throughout the pandemic.
NZ Police did not respond to questions about the reason for Brewer’s arrest or whether she had been charged. She remained in custody at the time of publication.
In a separate arrest on Tuesday afternoon, Monica Smit, the founder of the anti-lockdown group Reignite Democracy Australia, was arrested while driving in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton.
Smit had not been charged at the time of publication and Victoria police did not respond to questions about the reasons for her arrest.
Last year Brewer was ordered to pay the Australian MP Anne Webster $875,000 in damages over a series of “delusional” posts in which she falsely accused the politician of being “a member of a secretive paedophile network”.
Since the judgment Brewer has continued to make baseless and bizarre claims to her thousands of followers on social media, regularly accusing politicians, journalists and judges of being paedophiles and “freemasons”.
She was a key organiser of Tuesday’s protests, instructing followers in Australia and New Zealand to gather outside government buildings in defiance of lockdown rules.
Security agencies had expressed concerns in the lead-up to the protest after Brewer posted a number of thinly veiled threats about MPs to her followers on social media, including saying one “will be swinging from a rope and your carcass will be dumped in the sea”.—AP