Mary Gordon-Judge and Michelle Orfanos, registered nurses from Massachusetts, felt they were “discarded like trash” as hospitals in the state announced plans to discipline employees who would not comply with their vaccine requirements.
The nurses said their colleagues could easily get an exemption from flu shots in past years, but now only “a percentage of them” were able to be exempted from COVID-19 vaccines.
“Either you get this vaccine, or you don’t have a job, and that’s not right,” Orfanos said.
The two were among those who rallied in front of the Massachusetts State House on Sept. 26. Thousands of people filled the street with signs like “my body, my choice,” “no mandates, yes to freedom” and “freedom is the only mandate,” voicing their opposition to vaccine and mask mandates issued by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
In an executive order issued last month, Baker has required 45,000 state employees and contractors to be vaccinated by Oct. 17. Otherwise, they risk discipline and termination. The order points out that the state is the largest employer in Massachusetts, and argues that the mandate is the best way to protect the health of both workers and residents.
Last week, the Massachusetts State Police Union sued over the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. After a Superior Court judge denied their bid for an injunction on the policy, the union announced that dozens of the troopers have submitted their resignation paperwork, and some of them plan to return to other departments “offering reasonable alternatives such as mask-wearing and regular testing.”
Meanwhile, many local governments, hospitals, and other organizations also issued their own vaccine mandates, which were regarded by the protesters as “modern-day segregation.”
“How this is not a form of modern-day apartheid, except this time they are discriminating and persecuting us, not based on the color of our skin, but based on our vaccination status,” said Jeff Kuhner, a well-known radio host, and keynote speaker at the Sunday rally.
According to the Boston Broadside, organizer of the rally, the energized crowd included nurses, firefighters, police officers, first responders, workers, teachers, small business owners, veterans, and parents, who are “the backbone of America.”
The rally started with the national anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, and a prayer for the 13 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan.
Other speakers included Jim Lyons, chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, and Geoff Diehl, a Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts.
Citing speeches of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan, Lyons emphasized the need to protect liberty and restrict the power of the “big government.”
“Freedom matters. And what they’re doing to us is hijacking our freedom,” he said.
Donnie Palmer, a public school teacher who presented at the rally, believed that being forced to get vaccines and wear masks infringes on his freedom.
“We want to be freed. We don’t want to be governed by a tyrannical government. We don’t want communism. We don’t want socialism. We want Americanism, freedom,” he said.