Chanting, “USA! USA!” hundreds gathered at the Oklahoma Statehouse in Oklahoma City on Saturday to protest coronavirus mask and vaccine mandates and fight for their “freedom” to make their own choice.
The protesters sang patriotic songs inside the building’s rotunda and held signs with slogans such as: “No vaccine mandate,” “Mandate medical freedom,” and “Protect our freedom” at the protest dubbed the Oklahoma Freedom Rally, according to KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City.
“I do not want to see us be mandated for masks or vaccines because that is our right to choose what’s best for us,” a protester told FOX 25 of Oklahoma City. “So, that’s why I’m here – to support for the freedom to choose.”
“I do not want to see us be mandated for masks or vaccines because that is our right to choose what’s best for us.”
— Oklahoma protester
The Oklahoma State Capitol is seen in Oklahoma City. (iStock)
Ralliers called on Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, to protect Oklahomans from any mandates. The state’s Department of Health is urging the public to get the vaccine, and while it isn’t able to mandate it, some private businesses in the state have taken that step, the station reported.
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“I have suited up in PPE, gone out to people’s cars, swabbed them and then unsuited, taken specimens back to the laboratory, and then suited up again and tested them for COVID,” Chesney Thompson, a phlebologist who attended the rally, told FOX 25. “I have been doing this for two years, and now all of a sudden they’re pushing this vaccine, or they are going to take away my livelihood.”
The rally was held as the delta variant continued to spread across the state and the country.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye has broken with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that all people wear masks inside regardless of vaccination status.
“There are, again, certain parts of our state where, you know, there’s just – they just don’t have the population density and if they’re – if they are fully vaccinated and feel like they’re in a safe environment, then I wouldn’t – I’m not going to say that they have to wear a mask,” he said, according to KOCO.
A healthcare worker receives the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Dec. 16, 2020. (Getty Images)
The state is facing a legal challenge over its ban on mask mandates in schools.
Protester Donna Teeter, who told FOX 25 her sister could lose her nursing job, said she hoped Stitt would issue an executive order banning mandates until lawmakers can pass new legislation.
“We can’t hold out to the next session,” she said.