As New Zealanders adjust to life under social distancing protocols, political protest has moved online. Large-scale movements like the School Strike 4 Climate New Zealand have been conducting online activities to continue to raise awareness and apply pressure on the government to take action.
Last month, New Zealanders striking for climate did so according to the COVID-19 restrictions. According to the School Strike 4 Climate website, “we will be taking to the streets again but in a way that protects and respects the mahi done by all New Zealanders over lockdown. We ask you to take to your driveway armed with chalk and your cardboard signs”. Over 800 people attended the Facebook event for the strike.
Other political causes have also organised online protests as mass gatherings are subject to restrictions. On the 10th of May, the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa hosted its second online rally to raise awareness about “the huge threat Covid 19 poses to the people of Palestine – and Gaza in particular – and what we can do about it,” says a press release from the group.
Despite the adaptability of political groups, it is still uncertain around how effective the online protests will be in comparison to traditional forms of protest. Groups and governments around the world have had to adapt to the challenges of facilitating political action in the midst of a pandemic, and for some this has raised questions as to how lockdown rules may stifle political debate. Earlier in May across the ditch in Australia, a group protesting the mistreatment of Manus Island refugees was arrested and fined $AU1650 each for breaching social distancing regulations.
As of Friday last week, the government has allowed mass gatherings of up to 100 people to take place, meaning that smaller scale protests will be able to take place as usual. However, larger protests, like the massive marches for climate seen last year, will have to be put on hold for now.