Jeanette Wilson’s Orewa healing business was decimated by covid restrictions when both she and her colleague were forced to close the doors due to their vaccination status.
It was also devastating for their landlord, who is yet to replace them as tenants.
The reiki healer and psychic surgeon was running an additional online service, and this kept her and partner Andrew Carter afloat beyond the business closure. “I was able to keep up with enough work online to pay the bills, but others have not been so fortunate.”
When first made aware of the plans for February’s convoy from Northland to Wellington, Jeanette and Andrew made the last-minute, spontaneous decision to join, and travelled all the way to the capital.
Gathering at parliament grounds, the pair met and talked with a variety of people from all walks of life. “Lots of people in the crowd were professionals, doctors, dentists, caregivers, nurses, nannies. These were people who were contributing to society. Good Kiwis.”
Jeanette said the most painful stories she heard came from parents of differently-abled children who were no longer able to do their activities. “We’re supposed to be an inclusive society,” she said. “Now these people just have their parents, and they’re excluded from doing the things they usually do.”
According to Jeanette, the government’s vaccination mandates had caused a lot of strife to a lot of people. “There’s no logic. If the vaccines work, then we’re not a danger to them.”
Jeanette couldn’t understand why the government was not talking to the crowd gathered at parliament. “They were trying to portray a lie to the public about who we were.” She said everyone was welcome at parliament, where people had started living as a community. “We planted veggies. We were there until the mandates ended. People have lost their jobs, they have nothing to go back to. In their heart, it was the right thing to do.”
Andrew returned home to Orewa on the evening of Wednesday 9th February to the job he had recently started. Jeanette remained in a motel near parliament. On Thursday morning, she was getting ready to head back to the protest area when a friend called her, saying she should return as soon as possible. At around 11am Jeanette arrived at parliament and headed straight towards the front line to talk to the police. “I’m a peacekeeper. I went to laugh and joke with them.”
The police officers in the barricade line-up who talked to Jeanette that morning agreed the crowd was allowed to peacefully protest as long as it wanted to, but explained the issue was with the free camping, which was illegal according to Wellington bylaws. “I wasn’t a person with a tent,” explained Jeanette. “So, I wasn’t breaking the law. If the police are aggressive towards me when I’m peacefully protesting, that’s assault.”
Jeanette was live-streaming to her Facebook channel from the front line, where she said most people were asking questions of the police and discussing other things. Some were good-natured and interacted with the protesters; others didn’t. Jeanette said she told the police, “You’re good people, you’re courageous people, you’re just doing your job. We’re just doing ours.”
There were officers who were clearly uneasy among them, Jeanette said, and she saw two male officers with tears in their eyes. “There was no aggression in them. I think they were put in a very, very difficult position by their commanding officers and the government.”
Jeanette stopped filming the live-stream at around 1.30pm. The police presence had increased from one to three rows deep. The protesters were linking arms and singing, when suddenly a person was pulled out of the crowd.
Several moments later, a female police officer wrapped an arm around Jeanette, pressing an elbow onto her windpipe. As she felt the pressure start to block her airway, she told the officer she was hurting. The police officer dropped her elbow to Jeanette’s sternum, and applied more pressure. Jeanette repeated that she was being hurt, but the officer continued, and then Jeanette felt a bone break. She gave out a loud scream and shouted that the officer had broken her sternum. She felt even more pressure from the elbow and felt her legs give way. Two men on either side of her supported her weight as Jeanette continued to scream to alert the officers to her distress. She said about eight different officers then manhandled her out of the scrum, nearly causing her to pass out. Widely circulated video shows Jeanette crawling on her hands and knees shortly after being pulled out of the crowd. She said the police failed to call an ambulance for about an hour after she was hurt. “I wasn’t breathing properly. I was in agony. And I was hearing comments like, ‘she’s a drama queen’ and ‘there’s nothing wrong with you’ from officers and paramedics.”
Eventually transferred to hospital, Jeanette waited four hours to be seen, while watching three other patients be attended before her. “I was obviously distressed and in pain. I had one shoe on, one shoe off. Nobody offered me any comfort.”
She was not seen by a doctor, but other medical staff took X-rays, told her the sternum wasn’t broken, and sent her away. The next morning they rang her to say they had been incorrect, and in fact a third of her sternum had been broken.
Her recovery was complicated by a second visit to hospital after Jeanette suffered two nights of agony, recuperating alone in the motel. “Nighttime was the worst. Trying to get sleep was awful.”
Jeanette headed back to parliament grounds as soon as she was able. “I needed to talk to people and be around them. I feel strongly that this story needs to be told. There was nothing about the violence of the 10th February on mainstream media.”
Jeanette’s attempts to file incident reports or police complaints have been fraught. The day after the incident, she went to Wellington Central Police Station to request an officer accompany her to identify her attacker, but was refused on the grounds they had insufficient staff. Jeanette said she found the officer’s image on photographs, but had not seen her again on parliament grounds, and noted she doesn’t appear in any of the videos.
Jeanette also tried to lay a complaint, but the police officer refused to accept it, which she said is a violation of the NZ Police Code of Conduct. Returning to parliament grounds, Jeanette sought out a police sergeant there for assistance, and was given the advice she should go to the police station.
Eventually with the support of a legally trained advisor on the ground Jeanette was able to get a crime report number and make a complaint to IPCA (Independent Police Conduct Authority of New Zealand). To date, she has heard nothing back.
At the time of the incident, Jeanette was arrested for obstruction, but wasn’t read her rights. When she appeared in court on Wednesday 16 February, the charge had been changed to trespass. Jeanette said the trespass order came prior to her arrival on the scene. And besides, she said, “the police didn’t have to go through my sternum to get to those tents.”
Jeanette is due in court again to face the trespass charge on 22 April, and she is part of a class action being prepared for those who were injured at parliament.
Jeanette said she’s a fit, strong woman who has never broken a bone. She practices yoga and works out on a daily basis, and is anything but frail. She’s on the mend, and finally sleeping through the night, after finding it very difficult to rest and unable to lie on her front.
With a background in activism that started with her involvement in the Mothers Against Genetic Engineering organisation, the covid situation has not only affected her personally, but she has also been deeply concerned about what’s happening to children, and the exclusion of children.
“This is not right. It’s not about a vaccine. It’s about the freedoms that have been taken away.”
Image Credit: Jennie Hatherley