Multiple protesters disrupted the Labour Party campaign launch inside Aotea Centre this afteroon, after dozens of protesters from fringe political party Freedoms NZ earlier attempted to block people from entering the Auckland venue.
Four people separately interrupted speeches during the launch - three as Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins spoke and one as former Prime Minister Helen Clark spoke.
Clark was first to be interrupted, when a man began shouting from the audience. The audience applauded and clapped to drown his voice out, and he was removed by security.
After Hipkins began his speech a woman stood and began to shout.
This time Labour Party faithful stood and started chanting ‘Let’s go Labour, let’s go” over and over, with Hipkins on stage smiling as the woman and a man with her - who was filming - was removed.
“To our friends at Vision NZ, if you want real vision, join the Labour Party”, Hipkins said.
Freedoms NZ, led by Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki and prominent anti-vaccination lawyer Sue Grey, is an umbrella party of which Vision NZ – led by Tamaki’s wife Hannah – is part, along with others including the Outdoors & Freedom Party.
Another interruption then came from the mezzanine floor area of the centre, and then another after that. Former Labour Party president Mike Williams was sitting next to one of the protesters and attempted to cover her face with a red Labour Party t-shirt.
“Up the Wahs”, Hipkins said in response to the disruption, calling on the popular catch-cry for the Warriors this NRL season.
“I’ve been around politics quite a while, and this one does feel quite different.”
A reporter asked one of the protesters if they were from Freedoms NZ but the man didn’t answer. At least one was seen being arrested by police as they were taken out of the venue.
Earlier, dozens of people holding Freedoms NZ placards attempted to block the entrance to the Aotea Centre in the hour before the campaign launch at 1pm.
“No more labour pains”, the protesters shouted, as a group of Labour supporters and MPs tried to enter the venue. Police were called and arrived later.
MPs were yelled at by Vision NZ supporters as they entered the venue.
It’s not the first time people from Freedoms NZ and its affiliate parties have attempted to disrupt other parties’ events.
Freedoms NZ candidate Karl Mokaraka climbed on to a 2m-high fence to interrupt National Party leader Christopher Luxon’s press conference on Monday, forcing Luxon to move inside after Mokaraka ignore repeated requests from Luxon to “be respectful”.
Mokaraka also led a noisy and disruptive protest against Hipkins when he visited Ōtara Markets last month.
Brian Tamaki told his church followers last month that Freedoms NZ was exercising its “right to protest and speak publicly” and that he’s “had insight from the spirit world” for his campaign. He predicted more of his party members would “pop up” unannounced.
“This could spread right across, down the south and everywhere,” he said, before referencing Act leader Seymour.
“You’re next, David, you’re another one that hides the truth.”
Today’s incident came an hour before Labour’s campaign was due to launch, with Prime Minister Chris Hipkins giving the keynote speech.
Hipkins is expected to make further cost-of-living announcements in his speech.
Labour’s suite of cost-of-living moves is going head to head with National’s package of tax cuts – and both parties are also promising to increase Working for Families by comparable amounts.
The campaign launch will be Hipkins’ attempt to rally the party base and convince them Labour is still in contention after its polling slipped into the 20s in a couple of recent polls.
National leader Christopher Luxon will launch his campaign tomorrow, also in Auckland. NZ First leader Winston Peters is also wooing the region with public meetings in Orewa and Auckland this weekend.