NEW YORK—Thousands gathered near Central Park in Manhattan on Saturday to express their discontent with the vaccine mandates and passport requirements implemented on the city by Mayor Bill de Blasio this month.
New York City started enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate Monday, with de Blasio warning that “there’ll be consequences” for those who do not follow the rules.
The mandate requires establishments to put up certain signage and verify customers’ COVID-19 vaccine proof, such as vaccination cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New York City vaccination records, other official immunization records, the NYC COVID Safe App, or the Excelsior Pass.
Participants first gathered at Columbus Circle and then marched to Times Square, led by one of the speakers, Jo Rose.
“If you took the vaccine, I love you. This not against you, we are pro-freedom,” she announced to passersby.
Participants chanted “my body, my choice,” “no vaccine passports,” and “freedom over fear!”
At the rally in Times Square, people spoke about standing up for their rights and against tyranny.
Among the diverse group of speakers, the themes of unity and freedom were often brought up.
One speaker said, “The only thing that gathers us all together, different groups, different types, is our stance against tyranny. When they try to take away our freedoms, we stand.”
Another said, “Don’t use this as a political front. I don’t care about Biden. I don’t care about Trump. I don’t care if you’re a Republican. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat. I don’t care if you’re black, yellow, white, purple. I don’t care if you’re Christian, Muslim, gay, straight. I don’t care. This is a human issue and it should be bringing us all together.”
The crowd cheered in response.
Artist Tessa Lena also spoke at the rally: “It’s not about even those injections, it’s about establishing a system for artificial immunity.” She spoke about how “we are people of love, we are going to win with love.”
Mayoral candidate Bill Pepitone also spoke at the rally: “We have a president and a so-called mayor who are telling us we can’t go to work, we can’t feed our family. Our police officers can’t protect us, unless they comply. Our firefighters can’t protect us, unless they comply … our health care workers, they can’t save lives unless they comply.” He then led the crowd to chant, “We will not comply.”
Speaker Kevin Jenkins said, “This is about the very essence of what God gave us, and that is the power to be free. … It’s about the power of love that will allow us to win this battle.”
Jenkins compared the vaccine segregation to racial segregation in the 1960s. “Sixty years ago, I couldn’t walk in a restaurant because they said I was unclean … Now they’re telling us we are unclean again, not just black people, not Latino people, but all of us. We have to unify beyond race and love each other as humans.”
He urged people to only patronize restaurants that support freedom.
“When they tell you no to your humanity, you tell them no to their business.”
Mary Josephine Generoso, manager of the Pasticceria Rocco bakery in Brooklyn, said she would not be discriminating against customers by requiring proof of vaccination, defying the mandate implemented by the mayor. The business has placed signs announcing its policy to customers.
“I heard de Blasio speak, and immediately we created that sign that said ‘we do not discriminate.’ There is not a bone in my body that will allow me to discriminate against anybody for any reason any day of the year.”
She called de Blasio “the greatest unifier of New York City, because he’s brought us all together for one cause.”
“I’m taking this stance against the vaccine mandate because obviously, it’s completely discriminatory. It’s forcing me to segregate customers based on a vaccine,” she told The Epoch Times.
She also said she is being forced by the mayor to get vaccinated, even though she has natural immunity. “I am not employed by the city of New York, I don’t get a paycheck from the city of New York, I don’t get a pension from the city of New York, so I don’t understand how Mayor de Blasio is able to tell me that I have to be vaccinated in order to work in my own establishment.”
Li Hai contributed to this report.