Members of the anti-vaccination group gathered in large numbers last month at a protest organized by Groundswell against the government’s proposal for a farm-level emissions pricing scheme.
Voices For Freedom’s activity on social media channels shows that they made a concerted effort to participate in the action.
In the days leading up to the Groundswell protests, messages on Telegram channels related to Voices for Freedom urged its members to join.
Groundswell distanced himself from the movement last year and did not participate in the February and March Occupations.
Voices For Freedom followers sometimes wondered why they were expected to support Groundswell’s protests.
Co-founder Claire Deeks came to address the situation in a podcast leading up to the protest two weeks ago.
“In this situation, we are on the high road,” she said.
“We believe it is not the time to return TIT.This is an issue that we care about…We are not affiliated with Groundswell. I just believe they need it.”
In a post shared on a number of Telegram channels, the group said it had spoken with Groundswell leaders who were “very happy to have everyone on deck.”
Groundswell co-founder Bryce McKenzie said that wasn’t his way of saying it.
“I couldn’t say I was happy.
“We figured we couldn’t stop them anyway, so we had better make sure the message was online.”
Voices For Freedom’s plea to join was apparently successful, with the group appearing to make up the majority of protesters in some of the major centers.
Mackenzie admitted there was a crossover.
“Voices For Freedom has very good people. I disagree with a lot of what they do when it comes to movement, but some people are very good and there is a crossover between one and the other. and I must bear in mind that some of those people cross over to Groundswell.”
There was no formal relationship between the two groups, and the Groundswell leadership committee was not involved in Voices For Freedom, Mackenzie said.
But Groundswell’s Auckland coordinator, Scotty Bright, was honored at the Voice for Freedom Awards evening in September.
Mackenzie was unaware of this award.
Bright has previously gained prominence through his association with the Coalition for Freedom and Rights, which is affiliated with the Church of Destiny.
At the Groundswell protest in Dunedin, people were handing out pamphlets promoting conspiracy theories about the United Nations.
The materials included the phone number of Gil Booth, a recently elected member of Central Otago’s Teviot Valley Community Board. Gil Booth noted that he was a Groundswell coordinator and a member of the steering committee during the election.
Booth regularly promotes conspiracy theories on the Voices For Freedom podcast.
“Gil Booth has helped us occasionally in the past, and it’s well known,” Mackenzie said.
“I knew Gil long before Groundswell came along. I think she’s extreme. I tell her that all the time.”
Mackenzie said he disagrees with conspiracy theories about the United Nations and broadly supports the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
He was also vaccinated against Covid-19.
Voices For Freedom co-founder Alia Bland said in a statement that the group has championed farmers from the beginning.
A current online campaign claims that “agriculture is under attack.”
“VFF runs campaigns to educate and support people to stand up for their rights. The donate button on our website is a permanent feature. We do fundraisers from time to time. But there is no specific request for funding associated with this campaign,” Brand said.
“The restrictions currently facing New Zealand farmers represent a larger problem that is unfolding globally. In much the same way that has affected nearly all New Zealanders regardless, the VFF sees an impracticable situation imposed on the agricultural sector as the thin end of a great wedge. It is wise to oppose it before it spreads to the wider society.
https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/groundswell-tries-distance-itself-voices-freedom Groundswell is trying to distance itself from Voices For Freedom.