Protest organiser summonsed to court over Auckland demonstration

Newshub understands Brian Tamaki has been charged by police over organising Saturday's anti-lockdown protest.

Police have confirmed a 63-year-old man has been summonsed to court for organising a mass gathering event at Auckland Domain over the weekend. 

Superintendent Shanan Gray, the acting Auckland City District Commander, says the man has been summonsed to appear next Tuesday in the Auckland District Court. 

"The man will be appearing on charges which relate to Breaching the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 and Alert Level 3 Order," Gray says.

"The gathering of around 1000 people on Saturday was in breach of alert level 3 restrictions, which limit gatherings to weddings, funerals and tangihanga with no more than 10 people."

Police confirmed to Newshub on Saturday no one was arrested at the event, which featured a speech from Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki, with officers instead taking an approach of "observation and monitoring".

Auckland City District Commander Karyn Malthus said arresting people was "not the safest course to take with a crowd that size" and wouldn't rule out charges at a later date.

Gray on Tuesday said investigations remain underway as "police consider further charges or enforcement action against others involved in the event".

"Police acknowledge that the taking place of this event was frustrating for our communities and we want to assure people that the Police response on the day was planned and based on operational assessments as is usual for an event of that size.

"Police decision making when it comes to these types of events will always be about community safety first and foremost."

The protest was one of a number organised across the country by the Freedom and Rights Coalition. The group, which says it has members from all walks of life and is a mix of both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, opposes the Government's COVID-19 management "including border breaches, unnecessary lockdowns, vaccination pressure and bribery".

Many of those who attended Saturday's event brought along signs promoting "pro-choice" and "freedom from lockdown". Tamaki told supporters at the event that they've had a "gutsful" and it will take time and commitment to achieve their goals. 

On Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the protest was "morally wrong" as well as "illegal". 

"I do myself have a personal view on the protest itself," she said. "It was wrong and obviously illegal but it was also morally wrong. 

"What does it say to every Aucklander who has given up a huge amount over the past few weeks to do the right thing and keep other Aucklanders safe? It was a slap in the face to them."

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the protest in Auckland caused an "unnecessary and illegal risk" to public health and described the protest as "frustrating and disappointing".

In the lead-up to the event, Tamaki met with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster and deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha to discuss health and safety measures.

Following the meeting, Coster wrote to Tamaki summarising their discussion. In the letter, provided to Newshub, Coster says Tamaki agreed to "mandate mask-wearing". Despite that, the Freedom and Rights Coalition's website said mask-wearing was a "personal choice". Many who attended the event were not wearing masks.