Fundraising website for the New Zealand occupation registered in Canada
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that a fundraising website for the New Zealand occupation was linked to the Canadian “freedom convoy” and a website selling merchandise for this protest. This was based on registering website domains, but it was incorrect. This story has been updated to remove the link between the two protests. We regret the error. (Modified at 11:05 a.m., February 22, 2022)
The massive operation to feed, feed and cover the occupation of Parliament is partly funded by a website registered in Toronto, Canada.
Protesters in Wellington confirmed they were told all parking tickets could be taken to the Occupation Information Tent and would be paid for.
While it’s unclear where all the money behind the protest came from, the Occupy Monday fundraising page received individual donations in the hundreds or, in at least one case, $1,000. By Monday night, over $30,000 had been raised.
“Donations are currently used to fund infrastructure and equipment for the ground crew, including the catering crew. Examples are kitchen items, generators, marquees, tarps, tools, etc,” the fundraising site reads.
* Southanders head north to join Wellington protest action
* How US money for protests in Canada could influence US policy
* Inside Christchurch protest and gridlock angering locals
The New Zealand protest the website was first registered on Tuesday last week through the Canadian company Tucows Domains.
Although the website has been registered in Canada, no information is available about who operates the website.
In an email, an anonymous Wellington Occupation spokesperson said the “Toronto check-in is a red herring.”
“These are simply the registrar’s contact details that are displayed to protect the domain registrant’s personal information from the harassment that is inevitable in situations like this.”
They confirmed that the website had received just over $30,000 in donations and that “it is evident that the amounts are modest donations from Kiwis.”
Disinformation researcher Byron C. Clark said it was “not entirely surprising” that the New Zealand protest website was registered in Canada, home of the “Freedom Convoy” movement.
But he said it was unclear if there was a connection to the Canadian protests.
“Protest is really global now, and social movements are global now, whether it’s progressive movements like Occupy a decade ago, or Black Lives Matter, or Me Too,” Clark said. “This movement may be a politically more conservative movement, but it is just as globalized as any of these others.”
At the start of the Wellington protest, a number of Canadian flags flew in an apparent reference to the similar protest in the Canadian capital of Ottawa.
AP reported that Canadian authorities used emergency powers seize 76 bank accounts linked to protesters. They contained a total of NZ$3.75 million.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was not something the New Zealand government was considering at the moment.
“Ultimately…those decisions would be up to the police,” Ardern said. “They would have the ability to both investigate and then enforce.
What we have seen so far has been more anecdotal than hard evidence regarding the connection to protests overseas.
Ardern said the government would take advice before seeking a legislative path to end the occupation.
“We would want to see the evidence to ensure that any regulatory actions or changes were actually aimed at the problem identified.”
At least one of the groups behind the occupation, Voices for Freedom (VFF), has covered travel costs for those wishing to travel to the capital. The anti-lockdown group paid for flights for a 27-year-old woman, her 24-year-old partner and a 29-year-old friend to travel from Queenstown to Wellington this week. She spoke to Thing on condition of anonymity.
The cost of round-trip flights was around $500, she said. The group would not join the camp, but would stay with friends. He was told that food would be provided and that organizers had collected enough to feed the camp for four months.
The former hospitality worker attended a local VFF meeting a while back. More recently, she signed up for the group’s online database and attended a meeting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu where she expressed a desire to join the “I lost my job and my home, so I’m free to go and stand with these people who have lost the same as me,” she said.
Over the weekend, she was contacted by the meeting organizer and told that funds could be provided by a donor to facilitate her trip. They called me to say they have a fund of people in the group who can’t physically be there but donate and help someone else get there. They were like: we are ready to fund you as much as we can.
“Two donors offered me some help. It’s breathtaking. Everything in my world just opened up for me to go. People say go for it.
Once she booked the flights and provided an invoice, the money was transferred to her bank account. It does not come directly from Voices for Freedom, but was donated by the owner of a tourism business. Thing agreed not to publish the names of the organizer or donor.
The woman said she lost the restaurant job she had held for five years because of her refusal to get vaccinated. She said her employers were very understanding but had no choice. Because she couldn’t pay the rent, she said she also lost her house.
“I didn’t want to get [the vaccine.] It went against all my values. I believe in it, I personally don’t want it…and then being forced to leave my job and my home…the loss of my basic rights was very upsetting. I felt pushed out of society, that’s what this protest is about and why I’m going.
The trio were also friends with Rory Nairn, a 26-year-old plumber from Dunedin, who died in November. An autopsy found Nairn’s death to be “consistent with vaccine-related myocarditis” and the coroner is currently investigating. Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, is a rare side effect of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, affecting around three in every 100,000 people vaccinated. Most cases are mild and do not require treatment.
New Plymouth District Council Councilor Murray Chong, who is on the Occupy, said he had been approached by a ‘very wealthy person from the far north’ wanting to make a large donation amounting to thousands.
He had not received a parking ticket, but was told that if he did, he could take it to the information tent at the occupation site and it would be taken care of.
He knew many others – some who supported the cause but could not travel to Wellington – who had donated money, food or petrol.
Protester Ben Norton was also told he could bring parking tickets to the information tent, “and they’ll sort it out for you”.
Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean confirmed that so far only five of the parking tickets handed out at the site have been paid for. The board issued 335 tickets last Tuesday and another 184 the previous week.