Speakers at the anti-lockdown march promoted by Advance NZ had previously endorsed white nationalist conspiracy theories, but the party says it wasn’t responsible for the speaking list, Marc Daalder reports
More than a thousand people rallied in Auckland on Saturday to protest against future lockdowns – including at least two speakers who had previously endorsed white nationalist conspiracy theories.
The event was organised by a Facebook page called Liberty March, which has held weekly demonstrations rife with conspiracy theories about Covid-19, but Saturday’s was promoted by the conspiracy theory-driven Advance New Zealand party.
Advance NZ co-leader Jami-Lee Ross told Newsroom the party had limited involvement in selecting the speaking list.
“The Liberty March group started those marches about five weeks ago. We only become involved in any organisational element for last Saturday’s event,” he said.
“Our involvement extended to rallying the people to the event, providing our three speakers, assisting with some costs, and some liaison with NZ Police. The speaking list was determined by Liberty March. Our only condition of involvement relating to speakers was that the rally speaking list not include other political parties.”
But experts spoken to by Newsroom said the speaking appearance by two far-right YouTubers at an event promoted by a sitting MP raised concerns.
“What concerns me most is the migration of far-right politics into more mainstream electoral politics,” Paul Spoonley, a distinguished professor at Massey University and an expert on New Zealand’s far-right, told Newsroom.
“I’ve been very focused on the far-right and suddenly I’m seeing, in this election, these fringe conservative parties both beginning to articulate views that are almost identical to the far-right but also see these activists like [Lee] Williams being invited to be part of their political campaign and political mobilisation.”
Dog-whistles and conspiracies
One of the speakers was Damien De Ment, who had spoken previously at the weekly Auckland protests. He has previously spoken about his opposition to “mass migration” and the non-binding United Nations Global Compact for Migration – a common dog-whistle for the far-right and a bugbear for the March 15 terrorist. He also frequently discusses conspiracy theories about central banks that verge on anti-Semitism.
“The New World Order is sort of the brand name of the illuminati, the brand name of the deep, dark, secretive societies that literally control 99.9 percent of all the wealth on this planet and use it, effectively, in corruption,” he falsely claims in a June 2019 video.
“The entire planet as we know it is run by evil central banks who basically buy off everyone – the media, politicians, academia. You name it, the banks rule everything.”
Another speaker was Lee Williams, a Christchurch-based YouTuber who rose to relative prominence within New Zealand’s extreme right through his opposition to the UN migration agreement and was visited twice by police after the March 15 terror attack, allegedly for his online posts.
In a video coincidentally recorded the day before the mosque shootings, Williams said without evidence that social media companies were “part of the globalist conspiracy to lie to Western nations, the people of Western nations, because they seem hell-bent on flooding Western nations with mass migration from the Third World. Mostly, the vast majority, from Islamic countries. And they know what this is going to cause – it’s going to cause chaos.”
When asked about the presence of Williams and De Ment at the Saturday rally, Ross said, “We do not take responsibility for the views of the speakers you referred to.”