Last week, with the world understandably distracted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, New Zealand authorities took advantage of the moment to disperse an inconvenient protest against pandemic mandates. Like Canada’s Freedom Convoy, by which it was inspired, the protest was grounded in grassroots disagreement with authoritarian policies, mixed with a little nuttiness, and had outlived its welcome. Also like its inspiration, the protest in New Zealand was forcibly shut down to the surprise of those with preconceptions about peaceful, tolerant democracies. Governments are most peaceful, it turns out, when there’s little dissent to test that tolerance and, under pandemic stresses, gloves are coming off in an increasingly illiberal world.
“Police in riot gear cleared a protest camp outside New Zealand’s Parliament on Wednesday, sparking violent clashes that saw dozens arrested as protesters hurled bricks and set fire to their tents,” Michael E. Miller wrote March 2 for The Washington Post. “In what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said was a planned operation to remove the camp, hundreds of officers assembled at dawn and began towing the cars and trucks demonstrators have used to block streets for more than three weeks, in imitation of the ‘Freedom Convoy’ in Canada.”