In-fighting between Freedom and Rights Coalition, Counterspin continues at convoy protest after event 'hijacked'

Two anti-mandate groups are fighting with each other over how the Wellington convoy protest is running, with one suggesting there's been a "blatant smear campaign" against the other.

Hundreds of protesters took to Parliament the past two days to show their opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and laws. Three people were arrested on Wednesday after they broke through a line of police and the group has wreaked havoc in the capital.

When the group, known as Convoy 2022, arrived in Wellington, they needed some items for their protest, including a speaker system and security personnel. The Freedom and Rights Coalition (TFRC), which was founded by Brian Tamaki and Destiny Church, had their Wellington-based members lend the convoy what they needed. 

TFRC says none of the speakers were part of their group; only the emcee was from the local TFRC team because he was asked to do so by convoy organisers.

But tempers flared after the emcee told the crowd to move their cars so they weren't obstructing the street, otherwise the police were going to take action. He also told the crowd to socially distance.

Some interpreted this as TFRC "hijacking" the convoy's event.

"The team has done great things in the past, no argument there, but the Convoy organisers etc should have been running the mikes (sic) as the message from TFRC was not in alignment with the Convoy," one person wrote on Telegram.

But TFRC says it wasn't their organisation making the calls for people to move their cars and socially distance, rather it was communicated to the emcee by convoy organisers and this person happens to be part of TFRC.

"Today there has been a blatant smear campaign undertaken against The Freedom and Rights Coalition (TFRC), led largely by Counterspin Media, around what occurred at the Convoy 2022 gathering at Parliament grounds," TFRC says.

"The team at TFRC HQ had no awareness of what was occurring on the ground today until a lot of people wrongly started throwing accusations our way."

Counterspin New Zealand is a media organisation that spreads conspiracy theories and is backed by Steve Bannon's US platform GTV.

The in-fighting spilled over into Wednesday's continued protest at Parliament, where Counterspin's Kelvyn Alp said he wasn't intimidated by TFRC at the event.

"You guys actually think you can intimidate me? My God. I know a lot of you come from rough backgrounds and all that sort of stuff, you're just more organised now," he said during a Counterspin livestream with Hannah Spierer.

"Don't think you can intimidate me, it ain't ever going to happen. The cops can't intimidate me, I can't be silenced, I can't be bought, and I certainly can't be compromised. Don't try and tell me that didn't happen. Everyone on this live [stream] saw it."

Spierer says there "were a lot of digs" made at Counterspin during a speech made by the emcee.

"They think they can control even the alternative media. Fortunately we want to support everybody, but if you're going to send your heavies in front of our camera operators, that's not going to bring unity," she says.

"We're all one here, aren't we?"

In-fighting between Freedom and Rights Coalition, Counterspin continues at convoy protest after event 'hijacked'
Photo credit: Telegram

The frustration at TFRC was also made clear in Counterspin's Telegram channel. Some said TFRC "ruined the vibe", they "lost any support" one person ever had for them, and "their actions speak volumes".

The protesters are entering their second night camping out on Parliament's lawn, despite a "no tent" notice being served by Speaker Trevor Mallard

The notice also says no tents may be erected and reminded protesters that Parliament's grounds are alcohol and smoke-free. 

"The breach of the above policies and failure to carry out the actions may result in trespass notices being issued," the letter warned.