Thousands of unmasked and unvaccinated protesters from across the United States arrived in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 23 at the Lincoln Memorial to protest President Biden’s country-wide vaccine mandate.
Signs displaying messages from “Jesus Saves” to “Don’t Tread on Me” to “All Lives Matter” were raised in the crowd. Protesters cheered as organizers of the rally made connections between the U.S. government’s handling of the pandemic, communism, and the oppression of Jewish people in Nazi Germany.
On Nov. 4, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, President Biden required private businesses with more than 100 employees and other facilities to insist employees either show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination status or take weekly COVID-19 tests.
Since December 2021, President Biden has received pushback from citizens and businesses who oppose the mandate. The Supreme Court blocked the mandate that ordered private businesses and services to enforce the vaccination-or-test policy on Jan 13. According to an article by NPR, The Supreme Court voted 6-3 against the national mandate with their justification being that OSHA had exceeded its authority.
Mayor Muriel Bowser also announced a vaccine mandate for Washington, D.C. on Dec. 22 that required individuals who visit gyms, bars, restaurants and other public spaces to present proof of vaccination. On Jan. 26, Mayor Bowser also extended the indoor mask mandate to combat the rise in cases in recent months. The “Defeat the Mandates” rally was a public outcry against the nation and city wide vaccine mandates carried out by those unvaccinated against COVID-19.
The protest featured well-known critics of the vaccine and mandates such as President Robert F. Kennedy’s son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and physician Robert Malone. Many public groups also participated in the rally including D.C. Firefighters Bodily Autonomy Affirmation Group, Bravest for Choice, Feds for Medical Freedom amongst others.
“I think it is terrible and I think they are trying to punish us,” said Dayna Ventura from New Jersey in an interview with The Hilltop as she stood with the crowd.
In response to what measures the federal government should adopt in addition to the vaccines, Ventura said “I think that they should focus on treatment therapy, since the thing is that if they focused on treatments, then the vaccine could not be used under the emergency use,”
Cleo, a resident from the DMV area, was also in attendance and refused to give any more identification information than her first name. “They said the vaccine should be bulletproof and people who took one, two or even three shots should still be here,” she said.
“There are alternatives that you can take that they won’t tell you,” she further claimed. “You could take your vitamin C and vitamin D and be just fine. How can they expect folks to take something that may not suit everyone?”
Many protesters held up signs and posters that blamed Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Biden for the vaccine mandates while demanding medical freedom with chants of “My body, my choice”.
According to an article written by The Washington Post, Joe Smyser, chief executive of the nonprofit Public Good Projects stated, “Our worst worries have been manifested, these fringe ideas are no longer fringe ideas,”
The rally and rapid spread of misinformation regarding the vaccine and COVID-19 have caused pediatricians and other doctors to grow worried.
Dr. Deborah Greenhouse said in an interview with The Washington Post that “it’s truly frightening for the future,”
According to another article by The Washington Post, “an overwhelming body of evidence demonstrates that the coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective for most who receive them,”
The article also stated that “those who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines and a booster were 40 times less likely to die of the virus than the unvaccinated,”
Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control also stated in their released studies to The Washington Post that the “vaccines continue to provide robust protection against hospitalization from the omicron variant, even if they no longer ward off infection as effectively,”
Despite the CDC’s evidence supporting the vaccine, in addition to mask wearing, Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia stands in opposition to COVID-19 preventative measures.
On Jan. 18, Governor Youngkin passed an executive order which made masks optional for students, therefore nullifying school mask mandates. However, several school boards including Arlington County, Fairfax County and Alexandria City have filed a lawsuit against Governor Youngkin and his executive order.
The Supreme Court of Virginia has yet to make a decision on this matter.
Copy edited by Lauryn Wilson