OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – People gathered at the State Capitol for the Oklahoma Freedom Rally against vaccine and mask mandates.
The rally was put on by several Republican groups.
“It’s only a matter of time before you won’t be able to do anything without the permission of a communist government who will require proof of vaccination,” Oklahoma GOP Chairman John Bennett said. He invited Oklahomans to attend the rally earlier this week in a video message.
Organizers say about 5,000 people showed up.
“In this day and age, they say it’s my body, my choice, but when it comes to the vaccine and the mask mandate, apparently all of a sudden it’s not my body my choice anymore, it’s the government’s choice and your body and you have to do exactly what the government says, and that’s not American at all,” attendee Ken Smith said.
“I don’t approve of the vaccines. I approve, I thank everyone for making them, for making them available, and for them being free, but I don’t to be forced into it, because that starts to infringe on our rights,” attendee Karen Monahan said. “That’s what America is based on is making our own choices, and this is crossing the line.”
“How many people die of cancer every year, how many people die of heart disease, how many people die of diabetes, are we going to mandate as the governor people can’t eat at McDonald’s anymore?” Daniel Navejas, founder of Ekklesia of Oklahoma and an organizer, said.
The rally came after Bennett recently made a controversial post comparing unvaccinated people to Jews in the Holocaust.
“In America now, it’s vaccinated on one side, and unvaccinated on the other side, so under the premise of segregation, it’s very similar to other types of segregation that have happened in the past, but when it comes to the killing of six million Jews, I don’t think that’s exactly what they mean,” Smith said.
“Now today we have Christians and concerned citizens that say, ‘this goes against my conscience,’ okay that’s fine, but we’re going to make you have this card to let everyone know that you are dangerous to society,” Navejas said.
Organizers are also calling on the governor to call a special session for a bill to protect people from private employer vaccine mandates.
“Last year, all of the medical people were told they were heroes, they’re the heroes of the nation
and now they’re going to be the jobless,” Navejas said about hospital vaccine mandates.
Democratic leaders had their own responses when Bennett called on people to go to the rally.
“Listening to that, it sounded like the rantings and ravings of a desperate man who just wants to stoke fear,” Alicia Andrews, chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, said. “It was dangerous and irresponsible. He’s suggesting restrictions that aren’t even in place to keep his base riled up and angry.”
“What we’re seeing is misinformation, disinformation like this spreading across the country and especially across our state, and that’s leading to more COVID infections, and, unfortunately, it’s leading to more people dying,” House Minority Leader Emily Virgin (D-Norman) said.
Oklahoma State Medical Association President Dr. Mary Clarke weighed in on the video, saying, “COVID is not, nor should it ever be, a partisan issue.”
“As school returns, we should help protect those who are too young or immunocompromised by adopting scientifically proven techniques like masking, washing one’s hands and being safely vaccinated,” she said.
Clarke is also asking that Oklahomans honor the state’s healthcare workers.
“While we understand that fear-mongering is driving much of the COVID-denial, Oklahoma’s physicians, nurses and health care professionals are faced with its reality every time we see an otherwise healthy patient struggling to breathe,” she continued. “We must honor their efforts by working to solve this dire public health issue at the state, local and individual levels.”