New Jerseyans Rally Against Tightening COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

Governors announces extension of emergency powers and end of mask mandates the same day
By Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska
Ella Kietlinska is a reporter for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S. and world politics.
February 9, 2022Updated: February 9, 2022

TRENTON, New Jersey—New Jerseyans rallied on Monday, holding signs and chanting slogans, to demand an end to tightening COVID-19 vaccination mandates enacted by the governor of New Jersey.

Despite cold and drizzly weather, about one hundred people gathered outside the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton to protest recent COVID-19 vaccination mandates without a testing option for correction officers and health care workers, mandated in January by Gov. Phil Murphy via executive order.

Newly elected state Senator Ed Durr spoke at the rally, criticizing the mandates. New Jersey correction officers are being treated as second-class citizens because they are forced to take a vaccine while inmates do not have to take it, Durr said.

The senator called on the rally attendees to keep asking their state legislators to take action on this issue.

“We are still in the minority, but if you keep hammering [at it], things can change,” Durr, a Republican, said referring to the Democrat-dominated New Jersey legislature.

The senator said that he had introduced two bills in the state Senate to limit the governor’s powers. One will prohibit a person or entity other than health care professionals from requesting the personal health information of an individual, preventing discrimination based on vaccination status. The second bill prohibits mandating masks or other medical devices on children without informed parental consent.

Epoch Times Photo
People attend the rally to stop the COVID-19 mandates in front of the Statehouse Annex in Trenton, New Jersey, on Feb. 7, 2022. (Ella Kietlinska/The Epoch Times)

Durr also told people to contact their state lawmakers and urge them to put both bills on the floor for a vote since some bills never get voted on. “Then you see who votes for you and votes against you.”

“Make them show themselves and then come back and you vote them out. Vote them out on the school board, vote them out on the council, vote them out in the legislature–do that and things will change,” Durr said.

Durr, a commercial truck driver, defeated New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, in the 2021 election.

Durr’s entire district in Southern New Jersey turned Republican as two Democratic Assemblymen were also defeated by two Republican women in last year’s election. One of them was Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer, who also announced at the rally new legislation to stop vaccine mandates that she is putting on the floor of the state Assembly for review.

Sawyer told The Epoch Times that the new bill she has been preparing would protect the health care workers, first responders, and law enforcement from the mandates enforced on them by Murphy.

Prisoners are being released by the governor’s order so prisons are not overcrowded due to a staff shortage, Sawyer noted. The “same thing happens in the health care industry. The hospitals are not overrun, there’s a shortage of nurses and doctors and first responders” because of the governor’s vaccine mandates, she added.

The assemblywoman also urged all rally participants to call their senators and assembly members to let them know that people feel this issue is important.

“We cannot afford to lose any more people” to the vaccine mandates, Sawyer told the rally. “We need to keep you guys employed. … Know that you have lawmakers that are on your side.”

On the day when the rally was being held, Murphy announced that the mask mandate for New Jersey schools and childcare centers would end on March 7 but the health emergency declared by him about a month ago would be extended on Feb. 10 for another 30 days. In March, the state of emergency can be renewed again or will expire if no action is taken.

Murphy justified his decision by the decline in new cases and hospitalizations of COVID-19 and the continued growth of vaccinations for school children against this disease, the statement said. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

After the mask mandate is lifted, school districts and childcare facilities can continue to implement universal masking policies but will not be permitted to bar the use of masks, the statement asserted. “Schools that do not impose universal masking should revise their COVID policies to utilize masking among other prevention strategies under certain circumstances.”

Sawyer told The Epoch Times that the governor should have already ended the mask mandate, not in a month. “It’s stopping [children] from learning to the best of their ability.”

“How about kids with special needs that need to see their teacher’s lips to see their face so they can help understand and learn,” Sawyer said. Their needs are not protected and the opportunity to learn has been taken away from them, she added.

Congressional Non-establishment Candidates Take a Stance

A group of ten New Jersey Republican non-establishment congressional candidates issued a joint statement demanding not to renew the governor’s emergency powers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement was read out by one of its signatories, Phil Rizzo, a former gubernatorial candidate and a pastor who said that he represents “one of just a very small handful of churches that refused to close through the entire pandemic.”

“The New Jersey legislature has been complicit during this power grab, which has allowed Governor Murphy to rule by edict, unchecked, for almost two years,” the statement read. “This group is demanding a return to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

“New Jerseyans are ready to get their lives back, and we, the undersigned, have determined to return it to them,” the signatories stated.

Among the contenders who signed the statement, there are three who are challenging Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), three others are challenging Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), and two are challenging Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.). Other New Jersey congressional incumbents rivaled by the signatories are Reps. Albio Sires and Mikie Sherrill, both Democrats.

One of the signatories, Mike Blasi, a U.S. Army Veteran and small business owner challenging Smith, told The Epoch Times that the group of people running for Congress in New Jersey are patriots, not politicians.

Blasi said that their priorities will be medical freedom, securing the country’s borders, and fixing the economy. He said he believes that “together, we can make some noise.”

“We’ve got to maintain life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and make sure our Constitution is being held.”

“I see our country getting worse and worse and worse, and nobody standing up,” Blasi said, “So I decided it’s time for me to get up and fight for the Constitution.”

Blasi also stressed the importance of those in Congress to stay in touch with their constituents as many elected officials in Congress are there for so long that they lost the connection with the people they represent. He advocates a term limit for Congress representatives.

“I’m going to be in my district, live in my district, and meet the people, hold town halls, hear what they want me to hear, and bring their voices to Congress,” Blasi said.

As a retired law enforcement officer, Blasi also emphasized the need to maintain law and order in the country amid calls to defund the police.