Abundant Life School staff spotted at Parliament protest
15 Mar, 2022 01:00 AM
Editor, Northland Age
A Far North principal and a former teacher have been spotted taking part in the protest that erupted at Parliament.
Abundant Life School principal Mark Tan was filmed at the anti-mandate protest two weeks ago, thanks to a series of live videos posted on Facebook by his brother-in-law and former Abundant Life School art and te reo Māori teacher Billy-James (BJ) Natanahira.
The pair have been openly opposed to the vaccine mandate, with Natanahira one of several teachers who resigned from Abundant Life School after the introduction of the mandate in November.
Tan is on a year-long sabbatical.
In another video, Natanahira introduces Tan, before panning away to show the police standing around the perimeter of Parliament’s grounds.
In addition to the Facebook live videos, Natanahira also appeared to be filmed on 1News throwing bricks at police.
“When we got there, we thought we would check the protest out and that’s when we saw a lot of crazy things going on, it wasn’t good.”
Natanahira described how at one stage he was allegedly shot at twice by police for helping an elderly lady off the ground.
He said he tried his best to remain calm, but admits he “turned into an idiot”.
“It was just one of those things, but when two police rammed at me, I snapped and retaliated,” Natanahira alleged.
“I knew it was a one-off moment, but I’d seen so much unnecessary brutality that I thought, this is not on.
“I could understand why people were reacting the way they were, but I still didn’t think I’d get caught up as I did.”
Natanahira said as soon as he threw the bricks, he immediately regretted it and was now living with the consequences of his actions.
Natanahira said he was upset his actions had impacted his whānau and the wider community.
“I’m gutted, especially for my own family who’ve had to bear all this for my moment of madness,” he said.
Both Abundant Life School principal Mark Tan and BOT chairwoman Karena Hita were contacted for comment but declined.
A protester filmed throwing bricks during the demonstration violence in Wellington earlier this month has been identified as a former Northland teacher against COVID vaccine mandates.
Protesters camped outside Parliament for 23 days until March 2 pushing for a removal of vaccine mandates and COVID restrictions – until police worked to clear the occupation. It resulted in clashes between officers and demonstrators on the Beehive’s grounds which then spilled onto the surrounding streets.
In one incident captured by a TVNZ camera, a man is seen hurling bricks amid the chaos on the streets. The Northland Age has identified the man as Billy-James Natanahira, who used to teach te reo Māori and art at Kaitaia’s Abundant Life School.
Other videos posted on social media showed Natanahira and Mark Tan, the principal of the school currently on a leave of absence, in attendance at the protest. In one of the videos, Natanahira confessed to heaving bricks at police officers, the Age reported.
He told the newspaper he instantly regretted his decision to throw bricks.
Throughout the day of violence, videos captured demonstrators hurling bricks and bottles and police officers being sprayed with fire extinguishers.