Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki has broken his silence after police revealed he was facing charges over his anti-lockdown protest.
About 1000 people turned up to the protest at the Auckland Domain on the weekend, which breached alert level 3 restrictions.
In a statement to Newshub on Monday, a police spokesperson said they were considering charges in relation to the organisers of the event - Tamaki being one of them. Then on Tuesday, they confirmed they had summonsed a 63-year-old man to court for organising a mass gathering event at Auckland Domain.
On Tuesday night, Tamaki said he had been visited by two police officers at his home telling him he was to be charged with two offences under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirements) Order.
"I am charged on the basis that I organised a gathering in an outdoor place during alert level 3," he says.
"I am prepared to stand up and be heard when I see injustice and suffering. I am certainly not afraid to do so on any occasion, let alone at this vital time. I will defend my involvement and my right to do so. My community, my people, are too important for me to ignore the pain being caused by the Government's current policies."
Tamaki says he intends to defend these charges because he believes what took place, including his involvement, was "lawful, peaceful, and consistent with everyone's right to freedom of protest".
"I am surprised with these charges given that I had been open and worked collaboratively with the New Zealand Police before the event. I understood from the Police that they agreed in principle that everyone has a lawful right to peacefully protest protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and they would assist us to ensure this happened safely," he says.
"We also worked collaboratively with the local Police throughout Saturday's event, and they raised no issues or concerns with us on the day. This was and is important to me. It is disappointing to see the New Zealand Police now take this action."
He says he stood at Saturday's protest to defend the rights of all New Zealanders because the current lockdowns and alert levels "are damaging our people, and it cannot continue".
"It will be a sad day if simply speaking up against what is wrong is unlawful and someone can be convicted for standing up for what they think is important," Tamaki says.
"Surely, we all agree with that, whether you agree with my views or the many thousands of ordinary New Zealanders who also agree with me on the important issues that I have spoken of. There is a need to speak out and challenge the action taken by government when you consider it to be ill-conceived, or worse as here, causing serious personal and financial harm to many of our citizens and businesses."