What appeared to be around 1,000 protesters gathered in downtown Spokane on Friday to protest Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for state health care and education workers.
“It’s desperation at this point,” said Joe Bodey, who declined to give his occupation but said it would be affected by the mandate. “I’m concerned I’m going to lose my job.”
The protesters gathered outside of the Spokane Regional Health District before marching across the Monroe Street Bridge. They eventually ended up at Spokane City Hall, as chants of “freedom, not coercion” rang through the streets of downtown.
Caleb Collier, former Spokane Valley city councilman and executive field coordinator for the John Birch Society, gave speeches through a loudspeaker and said he helped organize the event.
“People have had it with their rights being infringed on, and they’re ready to do something about it,” Collier said.
Matt Shea, former Washington state representative, also played a leading role in the event and spoke to the crowd about the supposed dangers of vaccine mandates.
Inslee issued the vaccine mandate in response to a surge of COVID-19 cases in Washington, with cases dominated by the highly contagious delta variant.
The U.S. Justice Department in July issued a ruling that federal law does not prohibit private and public entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccination as condition of employment.
Many of the protesters said they would rather lose their jobs than get the vaccine, saying that it wasn’t safe or effective in preventing infection of COVID-19.
Some of the protesters said they were nurses who worked on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The vaccine is not fully approved yet, it’s an experiment,” Bodey said.
Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines all have emergency use authorization from the Federal Drug Administration.
As protesters were walking toward City Hall, some shouted at people who were wearing masks that their face coverings didn’t work. Mother and daughter Kristina and Kiera Twiggs shouted back at the protesters, saying that they were selfish.
“I’m going to be the one taking care of these people when they’re sick with COVID,” said Kiera Twiggs, a health care worker.
There are more hospitalizations in Spokane County due to COVID-19 than at any time during the pandemic, with the majority of hospitalizations being those who are unvaccinated, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
Anti-vaccine protesters frequently thanked law enforcement for controlling the rally.
The protest drew in dissenters of all ages. While a speech was happening at City Hall, a group of children could be seen holding a sign that said “Stop medical martial law” while they waved American flags.
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