To my friends, the peaceful protestors in #Convoy22 / A.J. Hendry

I’ve struggled with finding the words.

I don’t want to add to the dehumanizing narratives and the us/them divisiveness that is tearing through the social-media-sphere.

There is a lot that I’m sure we disagree on, equally I’m sure there is also a lot on which we could find common ground. Humanity is messy like that right? None of us fit into nice or tidy boxes. And though we disagree, know that I hold no malice towards you, no hatred, only love.

I hear that frustration of not feeling heard, I hear the anger and pain that sits beneath your experience of the world at the moment. You don’t feel you have control, the world has been torn out from under you, our entire world has changed. Believe it or not, those feelings are shared far and wide within New Zealand, and around the world right now.

As we’ve spoken I’ve also heard your concerns regarding your loss of freedom. I’ve heard the pain for those of you who aren’t able to continue with jobs you love. I’ve heard of the feelings of shame and exclusion you’ve felt by not being able to enter spaces in your community that are meaningful and important to you. I don’t want to diminish your experience; I don’t want to undermine what you’re feeling. And I’m not going to say freedoms haven’t been taken, nor that liberties haven’t been restricted. They quite clearly have. The question of course is has this course of action been justifiable?

 For myself, when I think of the impact of covid in our communities, I think of the people that I know who are at increased vulnerability due to this virus. I think of our homeless whānau, many of which have complex health conditions that would increase their vulnerability. I think of our elderly, of our immunocompromised whānau, and I weigh their lives up against the imposition these last couple of years of restrictions have had on my freedom and liberty. For me, their lives are justification enough.

And I’m going to be honest my friends, I have struggled with the comparison’s some of you are making between your experience and Nazi Germany or Apartheid South Africa. Because yes there is injustice and oppression here in Aotearoa, but I can’t agree that the Traffic Light system fits the bill. The reality of oppression here in New Zealand is that we have children living on Queen Street, we have families trapped in poverty, we have young māori men being held in lockup because they’re brown and homeless. Oppression here in New Zealand is being bullied and harassed for wearing a Hijab. It’s being physically assaulted for being Queer and holding your partner’s hand. It’s the majority within our society upholding and tacitly supporting a system which criminalizes and crushes the poor, which entrenches inequality, and celebrates those who hoard their wealth, and in doing so contribute to our people’s suffering. When I think of these things, I struggle to see the Traffic Light system as sitting on the same level.

Because eventually the Government mandates and the traffic light system will end. They are temporary measures which have been put in place with the intention of saving lives. Maybe you don’t believe they were necessary, perhaps you think there were other strategies the Government could have employed. That might be true, and you’ve made your point heard on that matter load and clear. And to be honest I don’t know. Personally, I have hated the mandates, and yet I’ve also understood why the Government has felt the need to use them.

And perhaps it is here that we may struggle to find ground on which we can both stand. Because, if I’m hearing you right, many of you don’t believe that Covid is as dangerous and potentially devasting to our health system and our communities as it has been made out to be. And I get that if we’re viewing covid through two different lenses that both our assessment of risk, and our judgement on what restrictions are necessary to mitigate said risk, will be vastly different. And so, I do understand why than from your perspective, this protest can be justified.

I also know that the majority of you want the protest in Wellington to be peaceful. To understand you better I’ve been watching the media ye’all are putting out, I hear the cries for peace, I’ve seen the manner in which you’ve intervened when things are turning violent. Putting your bodies between the police and your fellow protestors, seeking to calm things down. I’ve also heard from both the police and – believe it or not – the mainstream media, who have fairly consistently reported that the majority of protestors have been and are peaceful.

I have also heard you acknowledge that there is an extremist fringe advocating for violence amongst your ranks. Children have been harassed for wearing masks, police assaulted, journalists and politicians have been issued death threats with calls for their execution. I know many of you who are either at the protest, or have been, would never condone this sort of behavior. I’m sure you’d be horrified by it, and as is evident on the lives that I’ve seen from the likes of Chantelle Baker and the bro on Mana News Live, you’ve rightly called it out and condemned it.

And yet, this fringe element exists, and there are very valid concerns that it is growing. This week we saw protestors assault police officers, we saw one drive his vehicle into a crowd of police, the calls for the executions of our Prime Minister, journalists, and prominent Health Officials have been continuous, and the question I’ve sat with as I’ve watched this is how long can this continue?

How long before that fringe is radicalized to a point where someone is significantly harmed as a result? How long before the faction calling for peace (that seems to be leading this protest), loses control?

So, many of you that I know and love would never be a part of something that would champion such disregard for human life. And yet, a question I implore you to ask yourself is this: Has the protest made its point? And is it now simply creating an environment where the violent extremist fringe can grow?

Alongside this question, I’d ask you to reflect on another. Are you confident that your rhetoric isn’t feeding that extremist element? Is it possible that the community you’ve created is not the perfect environment for the seeds of extremism to grow?

Please, let me be clear, I’m not calling you a neo-nazi, or alt-right extremist, but am asking you to reflect on the manner in which the narratives you’re employing may be the perfect fuel for the fire.

Consider the narrative that Jacinda Ardern is a socialist dictator seeking to steal our rights, freedom and liberty. That journalists are being paid by the government to deceive us, reporting only what the Government wants them to say (which if you take a step back and analyze the breadth of media commentary is clearing untrue). That the Police are taking orders from the Government, and that health experts and health practitioners across the country are willfully medicating people with an experimental drug that is causing significant harm to people (which they are intentionally ignoring). Now, I’ve heard these narratives (and more) from many people who I would consider fairly regular human beings. And I know that none of you condone violence, and none of you would ever participate willfully in supporting the alt-right. But, have you considered how these narratives might be used in order to pull more people into the extremist fringe?

Because, if any of that is true, then the idea of burning down the government, of storming the beehive and executing “the enemy” can find justification. These narratives, when carried through to their fullest extent, have within them the seeds of violence. What other fruit can be born from them? How long can the voices calling for peace, contain those thirsting for blood?

I am concerned about where this ends. I’m concerned about vulnerable people with genuine fear, anger and frustration, who go to Wellington and are at risk of being lured into this growing extremist fringe. I am concerned about many of you whom I love, that you will be pulled into supporting something that is not truly in line with your values and core beliefs.

I am concerned that if the extremist group within your midst isn’t rooted out, or if the protest doesn’t end soon, that someone is going to be significantly hurt. That soon this protest will be defined, not by the peace, love and unity many of you desire, but by something truly horrific.

How long can you contain the anger? How long can you hold back those who hunger for violence and blood?

And so, I find myself wondering.

Is this worth it? Continuing the protest at this stage? Continuing to encourage it’s growth and expansion?

And if so, what cost are you willing to pay?

A.J. Hendry is a Laidlaw College graduate, and now a Youth Development Worker and housing advocate, working in the Youth Housing and Homelessness space. He leads a service supporting rangatahi experiencing homelessness and is also an advocate working collectively to end youth homelessness in Aotearoa. He is also the curator and creator of When Lambs Are Silent.

Though we try to keep up with all our comment’s and feedback, we do sometimes struggle to monitor all platforms. If you do want to engage in the conversation join us on facebook and find the relevant post or connect directly with A.J on his facebook page here.

8 thoughts on “To my friends, the peaceful protestors in #Convoy22 / A.J. Hendry

  1. Mike Bilodeau 24/02/2022 — 12:24 am

    Very well put 🙏🏿

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Clearly, what is/has been one of the outcomes of Covid 19 is the identification of a significant segment of the population of so many countries (Canada 🇨🇦 is mine) – a segment of our fellow “Country People” that have not the robust character and resilience to withstand external forces and variables, those ones that are largely out of their control or management, and that lead to responses from this segment that reveal their need for more structure, guidance, support, secure housing and income/food and psychological comfort during and after mitigation/or resolution of the “problem(s)” external forces and variables (like Covid 19 and other, yet to arrive, viruses and pandemics – yes, there will be another Covid 19 – it is just a matter of when and how impactful. These “less capable/less resilient” people that are our neighbours, friends, family members, partners, and children need to be identified earlier and provided the simple, clear, direct, concrete information and explanations of anything (like Covid 19 and all public health responses) that challenges the predictability, security and psychological comfort of their “world/environment/community/daily living”. Otherwise, after they reach their psychological “threshold of absolute tolerance/ability to cope” they will continue to do things like behave in the unexplainable, science-denying, conspiracy theory and reactionary fear/hate-bases individual and collective responses like “Freedom” Truck Convoys, calls for changes in government, and other inane and ridiculous behaviours. In fact, one could reasonably argue that the hatred we, around the world, observed in the USA on January 6, 2021 that begat the “Insurrection/Attempted Coup/Capitol Riot” was this non-robust/resilient segment of the American population mobilized and used by “nefarious groups/others” as unwitting, unstable pawns/soldiers for their hateful, racist, anti-democracy, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic agenda(s). These “users of our Weakest Links” only have allure and potential power with our poor compatriots/fellow “Country People” if we do not get to them first and imbue/bestow upon them the skills, abilities and systemic supports they need to remain more stable and hopeful when confronted by external challenges to their equilibrium and environmental homeostasis and certainty/predictability. We need to begin Public Health response to “viral threats and pandemics” education in Kindergarten classes and across all developmental ages and stages so that these most vulnerable and challenged-by-external “threats” to their individual and collective mental health/ability to function in healthier ways when challenged are not so “harmed” and, as a result, do not look for some concrete, external target for their fear and rage to attempt to reduce their terror and psychological upset. (Like targeting public health officials and government representatives making necessary, science-based decisions to maintain optimally effective responses to BIG challenges to our living (like Covid 19)). To us rational, resilient and robust people these seemingly absurd responses to an invisible foe like Covid-19 makes no sense but, if you accept my “less robust/resilient people needing more support, accurate information and concrete/hopeful pathways toward “things getting better” theory — immediate implementation of universal public health education for all citizens, beginning at young ages will be one of the important “new” investments in our individual and collective futures as we move forward along the “Human Being Timeline” with more of us able to “keep ourselves together” during more challenging circumstances. Compassion, education, and preparation will go a long way with this newly identified “weak link” segment of the population of all countries, around the World. One Canadian 🇨🇦 man’s 🥸 opinion…


    1. Or, it may be a case of the foolish confounding the wise. Time, as always, will tell. Peace.


  3. You wrote “I don’t want to diminish your experience; I don’t want to undermine what you’re feeling. “
    BUT that’s exactly what you’ve done, wrapped up in a ‘loving & educational’ lecture to put down & diminish people’s experience.
    In writing this article you have COMPLETELY subscribed to us/them by creating further division & judgement. You’re encouraging those that support your narrative to share on social media with a pat on their backs to say… see I told you so.
    It’s quite demeaning actually & a tad passive aggressive. Those that support you & encourage this narrative are not those unvaccinated people – many sharing this have got jabbed & think everyone is mental, dramatic, trouble makers… literally no respect for the truth.
    Christians widely judging & criticising other Christians for being overly dramatic & completely disrespecting the choice not be drugged. Eye rolls a plenty and calm down looks. Perhaps look at the other view with your eyes open, critical thinking & especially to what scripture says & what’s the real truth.


  4. So…I’m thinking that because of the mentally of SOME of the Protesters.. and the Glory and recognition they need and want.. ( such as the couple who got Married at the Protest) SERIOUSLY,!!!! Unless there’s some serious arrests made theyll be there through to Winter… Then they’ll go home to their deranged houses (not homes)
    Because they won’t win… Idiots.


    1. You seriously need to do some research on what the Freedom protests were and are, and will be about – get real Tina & exercise your critical thinking muscle


  5. These crowed needs a dictator government to smash them in a day!
    They receive free vaccine and free benefit from our taxes! that’s how they can camp free for weeks and weeks without working and scream freedom in a true free land 😅
    If they needed to wait for lack of vaccince supply and to pay for each vaccincination and for not loosing their beloved family members then they would kill each other to get one jab vaccine.
    Stupid low level lazy ass crowed.


  6. Compassionate sentiments AJ Hendry. And a good discussion.
    There’s plenty of evidence around covid being mild for most people by the way. And every year the common flu causes deaths and complications anyway sadly, in people with coexisting medical conditions. Funny how many omicron cases are around with a high vaccination rate.
    Compare the deaths of people with covid, and the 700 or so suicides last year, the road traffic accident deaths, cardiovascular deaths, cancer deaths & so on.
    There needs to be CHOICE encouraged by government, we have an immune system gifted by our Creator. We can do a myriad of things for ourselves amongst this covid situation, natural immunity always best.
    These mandates have been extremely damaging to people, businesses, schools, universities, NZ infrastructure full stop.
    Let’s get educated on using commonsense hey!


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