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Washington (AFP) – Waving signs denouncing President Joe Biden and calling for “freedom”, several thousand people demonstrated in Washington on Sunday against what some described as the “tyranny” of Covid-19 vaccination mandates in the United States.
Speaker after speaker — including notorious anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who compared vaccination mandates to the Holocaust — took to the microphone outside the white marble Lincoln Memorial to denounce the rules.
Like other Covid restrictions aimed at curbing a disease that has infected more than 70 million people in the United States, killed more than 865,000 and interrupted much of daily life around the world for two years and more, vaccine mandates have become a deeply polarizing political issue.
“Mandates and freedoms don’t mix, like oil and water,” said another speaker.
“Breathe. Breathe in God, breathe out fear,” urged yet another to cheers from the largely unmasked crowd of people of all ages, including children.
“I’m not anti-vaccine, but I’m anti-vaccine,” Michelle, a 61-year-old physical therapist from Virginia, who declined to give her last name, told AFP.
She said the messenger RNA sera developed by companies such as Pfizer and Moderna in record time were “too experimental” and “rushed”.
mRNA vaccines, given to millions of people around the world over the past year, have been shown to be safe and effective, and have been hailed as potential game changers in modern medicine.
Michelle, who paused in the interview to sing the national anthem with other protesters, said she had a religious exemption from taking the vaccine – but that to continue coming to work in Washington she must get tested weekly.
Much to her chagrin, her son, who initially resisted the vaccine, has now relented.
“He went and got it without me knowing – so much peer pressure,” she said.
“My body, my choice”
Another protester, Thérèse is categorically opposed to vaccines – to all vaccines.
She explained that she came by bus from Michigan, in the north of the country, to demonstrate.
“Warrants are not appropriate…vaccines don’t work, we’ve been lied to about vaccines,” said the 61-year-old, who worked in a school cafeteria before her retirement and also refused to give his last name. .
“And we shouldn’t be masking our children,” she added.
“I’ve spoken to a few psychologists who say our kids are hurting and depressed…It’s terrible. We need our freedom back.”
Further up the steps, the speakers – including some people in white coats, presented as doctors from Texas – continue to come and go.
“We are Americans and that’s what we do, we fight tyranny!” claims another.
A few joggers, as if lost, parade through the crowd amid signs proclaiming slogans such as “My body, my choice” or “God is our rock who will defeat Goliath”.
There are also numerous anti-Biden posters and a few flags bearing the name of his predecessor Donald Trump – under whom the vaccines were developed and who took credit for them.
Isaac Six, 34, ignored the difficulty of being unvaccinated in Washington, where proof of vaccination is now required to visit restaurants and other public places.
“It’s okay, we’re saving money,” the 34-year-old charity worker said with a laugh.
Vaccines in general “are wonderful, they have helped millions of people,” he added.
But imposing these vaccines, which like all vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing transmission, is “completely irrational”, he argued.
What worries him are the policies adopted “out of fear and panic” and “by one person”.
“I would like to see more of the legislative process involved, the people we elected to represent us are the ones who actually pass the legislation,” he said.
© 2022 AFP