New Zealanders' middle finger salute for Rex Tillerson convoy captures world headlines

Media around the world are reporting on the number of New Zealanders flipping the bird at the US Secretary of State as he made his way through the capital on Tuesday.

Rex Tillerson was in New Zealand for fleeting high-level talks on troops, trade and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

He was met with a cold reception - literally and figuratively. He exited the plane into driving rain and winds, and the pōwhiri welcome had to be made under cover of a balcony rather than on the lawn outside Premier House. 

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is welcomed in Wellington, New Zealand.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is welcomed in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo credit: Photo credit: Patrick Gower/Newshub

And then there were the protesters, who threw water-filled condoms at a giant orange effigy of Donald Trump. 

Anti-Rex Tillerson protesters outside Parliament in New Zealand.
Anti-Rex Tillerson protesters outside Parliament in New Zealand. Photo credit: Lloyd Burr/Newshub

But the headlines were captured by a remarkable number of middle-finger salutes displayed by the citizens of New Zealand. 

New York Times journalist Gardiner Harris said he's never seen the bird flipped in such numbers.

"I've been in motorcades for a couple of years now ... I've never seen so many people flip the bird at an American motorcade as I saw today," Mr Harris said.

The finger-raising news was picked up by publications around the world, including the Telegraph, Teen Vogue, The Guardian, Reuters and Gizmodo.

"Wellington failed to put on the charm for the secretary of state," The Guardian reported.        

The Telegraph described it as an "unusual reception in New Zealand as the country's citizens demonstrated their views on his president."         

The demonstrators had gathered at Parliament to protest United States President Donald Trump's promise to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. It's unclear whether it was protesters or other members of the public who were raising their middle finger at the motorcade in disgruntlement.

The Paris Climate accord was a huge and unprecedented undertaking, signed by 195 member states and ratified by 148.

The accord aims to hold the increase in global average temperature to below 2degC above pre-industrial temperatures in order to reduce the impact of climate change. Upon withdrawal, the US will join Nicaragua and Syria as the only UNFCCC member states who are not signed up to the agreement.

Gerry Brownlee downplayed New  Zealand's "bird-flipping" on RNZ on Wednesday morning, saying he was in the motorcade and there were a "few people flipping the bird."