Rex Tillerson Had to Drive Past a Bunch of People Giving Him the Finger in New Zealand

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talks to the media about the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on June 2. Yuri Gripas/Reuters

New Zealanders are not happy with U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and they let Rex Tillerson know it.

The secretary of state arrived in Wellington Tuesday for a visit with New Zealand's prime minister, Bill English, and foreign minister, Gerry Browlee, "to reaffirm our strong ties and discuss coordination on shared strategic interests," according to a news release. But as Tillerson was driven around the island nation, journalists there said he was confronted by people giving him the finger en masse.

Related: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: I will never compromise my own values for Trump

"I've been in motorcades for a couple of years now.… I've never seen so many people flip the bird at an American motorcade as I saw today," New York Times reporter Gardiner Harris told Stuff.co.nz

NBC News' Andrea Mitchell identified a reason for the hostile reception, tweeting that Tillerson was "greeted by people signaling thumbs down & display of middle fingers for quitting Paris." 

They weren't the only ones criticizing Tillerson. Roughly 200 protesters also headed to Parliament as part of an "unwelcome" event for Tillerson Tuesday due to his affiliation with Trump, who announced June 1 he planned to pull out of the international accord aimed at curbing climate change, the Guardian reported.

New Zealand has had a tense relationship with Trump for months.

In August, Newshub and Reid Research released a poll showing that only 9 percent of New Zealanders said they would vote for then-Republican presidential candidate Trump if they could, with 76 percent instead choosing to back Democrat Hillary Clinton. In the wake of Trump's election, disgruntled residents flocked to the country, with the number of Americans applying for citizenship by grant rising by 70 percent, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, New Zealanders defended their opposition to Tillerson and, by proxy, Trump. In a piece published on local pop culture site the Spinoff, at least one Kiwi attempted to apologize for the islanders' actions.

At first, the Spinoff suggested the middle finger was a folk gesture. Then it tried to say the bird was more of a salute to Trump's "slender and vertiginous tweeting finger." But, finally, it copped to the real reason.

"The truth is—and a little humility is in order here—that it was an unforgivable act. It was selfish, unthinking and rude. It was insulting and ill-judged," the Spinoff wrote. "We refer, of course, to your president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, which seems to have been the basis for the bird-flipping, which itself was impolite, and for which we apologize."