OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma’s GOP chairman is inviting the public to a rally against COVID vaccine mandates. He shared a video invite on multiple online platforms Wednesday afternoon.
In an impassioned five-minute video, John Bennett asserted that Oklahomans should not be required to wear masks, get the COVID vaccine or carry proof of vaccination. He’s calling on anyone who agrees to join him at the State Capitol this weekend.
“We in Oklahoma, we refuse to be locked down,” the state Republican Party leader said. “We will not be forced to be vaccinated against our will, because in Oklahoma, we believe we are free to choose our own decisions for our families, our education, whether we get a shot or not, and we will not be forced into anything by an overreaching government that peddles fear.”
His sharp and fiery message painted a grim future of where vaccine mandates lead.
“They’re pushing for mandatory vaccinations, forcing all of us to wear masks against our will. They’re forcing our kids to wear masks. They’re shutting down our schools, our restaurants, they’re shutting down our churches and they’re restricting our movements,” he said. “I mean, it’s only a matter of time before you won’t even be able to do anything without the permission of a communist government who will require proof of a vaccination.”
State Democratic leaders are calling Bennett’s message reckless.
“Listening to that, it sounded like the rantings and ravings of a desperate man who just wants to stoke fear,” said Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Alicia Andrews. “It was dangerous and irresponsible. He’s suggesting restrictions that aren’t even in place to keep his base riled up and angry.”
She wants to see all Oklahomans get the COVID shot.
“I believe it’s my body, my choice until my decisions affect my fellow man, until my decisions affect my neighbor,” she said. “Everyone who is able, there are some immunocompromised people who can’t, but everyone who is able should get the vaccine, not because they’re being forced, but because they care about their fellow Oklahomans.”
Democratic Oklahoma State Representative and House Minority Leader Emily Virgin said Bennett’s video made her 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,” she said. “This is just a really irresponsible message for someone who’s supposed to be a leader in our state.”
She said private businesses have the right to mandate vaccines.
“We believe that private businesses have the right to do these things, and the government shouldn’t interfere with that if they say that to keep their patrons safe, that they’re going to require vaccinations,” she said.
Virgin also noted that vaccine requirements, in general, are not unprecedented.
“I would remind folks that vaccine mandates are not new,” she said. “We’ve had them for a long time for public schools, for the military, for colleges and universities.”
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.”
She gave her own directive for Oklahomans.
“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.”
Bennett is calling for others who think like him to rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Saturday. The event’s tagline is “We will not bow to tyranny.”
“Oklahomans, come out and let your voices be heard,” he said at the end of the video invite. “We will lock arms at the gates of freedom and our voices will be heard. We will not back down. We will not back up and we will not give up.”
The Oklahoma Freedom Rally starts at 3 p.m.