Wellington Scoop

Attacked for wearing a mask

by Ben Strang of RNZ
On Tuesday night, five hours before the restrictions were about to snap into place, I was tasked with talking to people on the streets of Wellington about the impending lockdown.

Wearing an RNZ jacket and my trusty black face mask – and armed with an RNZ flagged microphone – I greeted people as I always do, by telling them I was an RNZ reporter.

That’s when I was attacked.

A tall blond man tried to rip my face mask off, grabbed my ear and around my head.

He yelled that Covid-19 was a myth, aggressively asked why I needed the mask and said none of the pandemic was real.

Fortunately, I know how to handle myself and got out of the situation quick smart, but these situations are not isolated.

Other reporters have talked about overly aggressive anti-lockdown Covid-19 conspiracy theorists confronting them while they’ve been working.

Usually, we only see it online through social media, or in our email inbox from the brave few using creative pseudonyms.

But if Tuesday night is any indication, the tide is changing. And it is not just the media who are noticing the swell of Covid-19 discontent or disbelief.

Last time out, the police took an “educational approach”, telling people to pull their heads in and head home. This time, they are acting far quicker in locking them up. That is because they see the rise in this behaviour too, want to send a clear message to those who believe in alternative facts and want to knock it on the head.

It has also been noticed by supermarket workers, bus drivers, airline staff, and any number of frontline workers across the country.

There are reports of people being kept off flights because they refuse to wear a mask.

The protests, the arrests, the number of people requiring “education” from the police are small compared to the vast numbers who are complying with restrictions. But they are the tip of a digital iceberg, with a large online community which is consistently growing, feeding on the idea that Covid-19 is either a hoax or perhaps a plandemic.

We all have an uncle, or a sister-in-law, or a neighbour, who tries to tell us the truth as they see it.

But how many people do they convince? How many people are now second guessing getting a vaccine because of misleading scientific “evidence” one of these people has been talking about?

It’s a dangerous situations we find ourselves in. With anger and misinformation swelling like a tumour, there is added pressure on the government to make the right decisions in steering the country through this outbreak.

This is an edited version of an article first published on the RNZ website.


  1. Jim, 21. August 2021, 10:50

    Is interviewing people sensible, given social distancing rules and when a level 4 lockdown is soon to come into force?

  2. Sean Payne, 21. August 2021, 11:23

    Let’s hope that when we do get up to 80% vaccination rates, the government has vaccination passports implemented and restricted entry in place at movie theaters, restaurants, bars etc for those vaccinated only, and the anti-vaxxers barred.

  3. Kara, 21. August 2021, 17:15

    Ben I hope you are feeling okay.

  4. Jamie, 22. August 2021, 13:40

    Hi Ben. I’m not an anti vaccer. But I wasn’t in a hurry to get it because I live in the country, don’t really go anywhere and like my personal space. I listened to an expert in the UK and that was where I learnt the following and why I now will get the vaccine. The facts are the Pfizer vaccine does not stop you getting the delta variant or stop you spreading delta. It does stop you getting sick compared to not having it though.

  5. Dave B, 23. August 2021, 11:12

    Hi Jamie. I am guessing the UK expert you listened to was Dr John Campbell. He has developed an excellent reputation for researching worldwide data, providing an impartial commentary on what the evidence tells us, and sorting fact from fiction. I am sure he would say that although the Pfizer vaccine does not guarantee 100% to protect against the delta variant or stop vaccinated individuals passing it on, it greatly reduces the chances of infection, the severity of infection if you do get it, and the likelihood of infecting others. No vaccine claims 100% efficacy but the Pfizer Covid vaccine is up there with the best and the evidence so far is that it is making a big positive difference as to how this pandemic plays out.

    Ben Strang, sorry you had to endure the aggressive rant of this intolerant individual. No doubt he has his reasons for feeling disgruntled with life, but it is sad that this translates into spreading fake news around the community like a virus.

  6. average human, 7. September 2021, 8:22

    I heard a nice little story the other day from someone in the USA who was wearing his mask in an elevator, when a group of 5 men came into the elevator and started abusing him because he was wearing a mask. To which the guy replied: “how refreshing it was to be with people who were not scared of the fact he had just had a positive Covid test, and he had the mask on for their protection, not his.” Apparently they went quite quiet after that…


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