More than 2000 counter-protesters - including one armed with a bottle of juice - have led to reports British anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull may abort her central Auckland rally.
Keen-Minshull - who was in the country as part of her Let Women Speak tour - was drowned out by protesters galvanised by the LGBTQIA+ community.
As she was standing on the rotunda stage at Albert Park preparing to speak, one counter-protester rushed towards her and poured a bottle of juice over her head.
The protester then sprayed more on one of Keen-Minshull’s security guards.
Skirmishes broke out with pushing and shoving between the counter-protest group and Keen-Minshull’s much smaller entourage.
A barrier erected to try and keep the two factions apart was pushed down.
The juice-hurling protester was removed by security but Keen-Minshull’s attempts to speak were drowned out by drums, chants of “go home” and, at one point, a Whitney Houston song playing over the loudspeakers.
Keen-Minshull, also known as Posie Parker, said she had “never been as frightened” and felt that her life had been in danger.
Speaking from a livestream in the back seat of a police car after the event, Parker asked whether she would get a similar reception in Wellington. When told that she would, she said: “Maybe it’s time to say that we can’t do it”.
Speaking to the Herald, she said had been advised not to give out further details about future events.
A statement released by Speak Up For Women this afternoon, however, said a planned Wellington speaking event had been cancelled after being “overrun by a violent mob” at Auckland’s Albert Park.
“Speak Up for Women thanks Mrs Keen-Minshull for having the courage to come to New Zealand and showing up in Albert Park today, despite receiving multiple death threats and threats of violence in the last week,” the statement read.
“In the coming weeks Speak Up For Women will be gathering witness statements and laying a formal complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority about the lack of police action to prevent violence in what was clearly an increasingly volatile situation.”
Before the event, Keen-Minshull said she was in New Zealand to “give women who feel gaslit by the state [the ability] to speak about the rights they are losing”.
After the ugly scenes at Albert Park, including physical clashes involving the counter-protesters, she has indicated she may now cancel her Wellington leg of the tour set for Sunday.
In a live Youtube video from the back of the police car she left, in she discusses whether she should travel to the capital.
“Maybe it’s time say ‘we can’t do it’,” she says.
She asked the police officer driving the patrol car to take her to Auckland Central Police Station as she was wary of returning to her hotel accomodation after a threatening note had been left under her door.
Counter-protesters are claiming victory after New Zealand’s LQBTQIA+ galvanised amid a backdrop of increasing animosity.
Auckland woman Kendall was among the counter-protesters.
”This is where we come together, right. It’s not new, it’s not surprising, it’s really frustrating that it’s been allowed to land on our shores.”
Her message to Keen-Minshull was: ”You don’t speak for me, you don’t speak for women, you don’t speak for my community, you do not speak for this country. Go home.”
Keen-Minshull arrived at Auckland Airport last night after a last-ditch court case to block her entry to NZ failed. When asked if she felt safe, Keen-Minshull said she felt New Zealand was “insane”.
She said she expected trans rights activists to be at her event and claimed “men [trans women] would come out. They’ve already threatened to be aggressive.”
Keen-Minshull’s controversial tour has seen her face criticism from politicians and other social commentators for her assertion people cannot change their sex.
She argues she is campaigning for women’s rights - but opponents say her transphobic rhetoric is a threat to trans people’s rights and safety.
Shaneel Lal said trans people in Aotearoa “deserve to feel safe in their home”. Lal is calling for people to join the counter-protest today - they say it is designed to stand up against hate and to protect the vulnerable.
Keen-Minshull has also faced criticism over the attendance of neo-Nazis at her rally in Melbourne recently. She told the Herald she and her ideas were not associated with Nazism.
The presence of a group of men doing Nazi salutes follows Keen-Minshull’s history of having been interviewed by fringe neo-Nazi media internationally several times since she first built a public presence.
An online petition was also earlier launched calling for her to be kept out of the country.
Before leaving Australia, she told the Herald she had been contacted by police ahead of her arrival.
“The police are worried about my safety in your country,” she said.
“They want to know where I am and make sure I’ve got contacts for them.”
Security company cancels
It was earlier revealed by the Herald that a New Zealand security firm pulled out at the last minute ahead of one of her public rallies, leaving Keen-Minshull facing a $10,000 bill to hire a replacement.
The activist said her Australian tour had been dogged by last-minute cancellations from companies, including security and sound system operators.
“A company in Wellington just refused, just won’t protect us,” Keen-Minshull said.
She blamed the situation on being badly defamed because “most people really hate women”.
She also revealed in a lengthy YouTube address the need for half a dozen minders for the New Zealand leg of the tour, which kicks off tomorrow in Auckland at Albert Park.
“I am so looking forward to meeting the women in New Zealand.”
High Court case fails
Rainbow community groups Gender Minorities Aotearoa, InsideOUT Koāra and Auckland Pride jointly filed a judicial review application yesterday seeking an interim order to prevent Keen-Minshull’s arrival.
After a two-hour hearing in the High Court at Wellington this morning, which heard from the coalition of rainbow groups, Crown Law and intervenors the New Zealand Free Speech Union, High Court Justice David Gendall declined the application.
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) announced earlier this week, after a review of whether Keen-Minshull should be allowed in, that she did not meet the high threshold to be considered an excluded person under Section 16 of the Immigration Act 2009.
The INZ assessment took into account the events in Melbourne, where her speaking event drew a crowd, including people who were seen giving Nazi salutes and shouting slurs, Minister for Immigration Michael Wood said earlier this week.
“Like many New Zealanders I would prefer it if Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull never set foot in New Zealand. I find many of her views repugnant, and am concerned by the way in which she courts some of the most vile people and groups around, including white supremacists,” Wood has said.
“As we look towards her events for this coming weekend, the welfare and safety of our transgender community is front of mind. Event organisers maintain the primary responsibility to ensure they run a safe and secure event and police have advised they will also be in attendance to ensure public safety.
“I condemn her inflammatory, vile and incorrect worldviews, and will always stand alongside those New Zealanders who use their own right to free speech against those who wish to take society backwards.”
In dismissing the application, Justice Gendall said he had sympathy for the applicants.
“My sympathy for the applicants’ position is grounded largely in the information provided by the applicants and the Crown, which to my eye, appears to clearly raise issues of public order.
“This is a finely balanced decision. I accept the applicants have indeed raised a possible case upon which it might be said to be arguable that no reasonable minister could have concluded that Section 16 of the Immigration Act is not to be invoked.”