WASHINGTON — Dozens of protesters marched in opposition to a newly instituted coronavirus vaccine mandate in the District Saturday that prohibits residents and visitors from entering numerous establishments unless they’ve had at least one dose of the vaccine.
The mandate took effect Saturday and requires those aged 12 and older seeking to enter “restaurants, bars and nightclub establishments,” “indoor entertainment establishments,” “indoor exercise and recreational establishments” or “indoor event and meeting establishments” to have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
In February, the mandate will be expanded, requiring patrons to show proof that they’ve been double jabbed.
Locations that are exempt include: Houses of worship, grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals and other medical facilities, “big box stores” and “retail establishments where people tend to be in motion and not standing or seated in close proximity to others for long periods of time” along with most government facilities such as the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Additionally, the vaccine mandate does not apply to “individuals entering a covered establishment for a quick and limited purpose,” such as placing an order at a fast-food restaurant or “a person entitled by law to a reasonable accommodation due to a medical condition or a sincerely held religious belief.” However, those providing documentation of a religious or medical exemption must provide proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within the previous 24 hours.
The vaccine mandate did not sit well with dozens of protesters who braved the cold weather and marched from the John A. Wilson Building, where Mayor Muriel Bowser works, to Lafayette Square outside the White House to demonstrate their opposition to vaccine mandates at the local and federal level. The event was organized and led by Annabelle Rutledge, who works for the conservative public policy organization Concerned Women for America, in her capacity as a private citizen.
Upon arriving in front of Lafayette Square, Rutledge led the crowd in prayer. She expressed gratitude to all the participants who “got up and sacrificed their Saturday morning, their warm cozy beds, TV shows, hanging out with friends, whatever it was, to come out here today and stand up for their personal liberty, but also the personal liberties of their neighbors.”
“This is loving your neighbor. Standing up for religious liberty, for personal liberty, for our Constitution, for preserving this country — that is loving your neighbor,” she asserted.
At the event, Rutledge prayed for President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the mayor and all those who have coronavirus or any other type of illness.
Rutledge called on God to “look upon our nation and have grace upon us, even in the ways that we have sinned and the ways that we have turned against you” before leading the crowd in singing “God Bless America.” She also proclaimed that “rebellion to tyranny is obedience to God.”
In an interview with The Christian Post, Rutledge elaborated on what motivated her to hold a protest: “As an American citizen, as someone who lives in the DMV, thankfully Virginia … I didn’t want this day to go past without some sort of respectful dissent against this attack on personal liberty.”
Rutledge added that she has “friends ... who worked for organizations or companies within the District that decided to abide by the vaccine mandate” subsequently her friends lost their jobs because they weren’t vaccinated.
“We just need to remember and keep in mind that this isn’t just about a vaccine mandate,” she added.
“First of all, this also isn’t a partisan issue,” she continued. “There are people on both sides of the aisle. This is for every single freedom-loving American who wants to stand up for personal liberty but outside of that … this harkens back to the very basis of what we believe as a society.”
Rutledge contended that the vaccine mandate issue illustrates the importance of preserving the right to “think freely, to think critically, to analyze things, to ask questions, to make a decision for ourselves and to stand up for our rights and to ultimately say no.” She further stressed that “individual liberty is what this country is founded on,” and asserted that “this isn’t just a mandate, this is a lot bigger than that.”
She also condemned the “trampling of religious exemptions” that have accompanied the vaccine mandates and condemned the “political elites across our country who are totally out of touch with the average everyday American” and making “edicts which are not in line with … how our country was meant to be run.”
“To me, this is so much more than just a vaccine mandate. This is about personal liberty. This is about our ability to think critically, to debate things rigorously, to ask questions, to post things on social media that we disagree with or that we agree with and to ultimately say, ‘no’ if that’s the decision that we make.”
Anna Lulis, an employee of Students for Life of America who lives in the District, told the crowd that she spent the past week “hitting up every single shop I could think of because I wanted to ... support small businesses before I was unable to.”
She recalled that many of her friends who were unvaccinated did the same thing before slamming Bowser for “creating division among her community” by imposing a vaccine mandate.
Several demonstrators spoke with CP about how the vaccine mandate will impact them. Brooke Paz, another employee of Students for Life of America, said, “This mandate 100 percent affects me because I live in D.C., I work in D.C., and now I’m not able to go anywhere fun because of this mandate.”
Paz cited the vaccine mandate as the latest example of Bowser making “out-of-line decisions.” she added that Bowser is “very supportive of Planned Parenthood, she’s very supportive of … expanding abortion access,” and lamented that “some of our staff and students were arrested outside of a Planned Parenthood in D.C. by her orders.”
“She’s definitely not working for the people, unfortunately, and I don’t think that she will make the right decision here,” Paz predicted. Attendance at the vaccine mandate protest was not limited to those who live in the Washington Metropolitan Area.
Christin Deretich of Minnesota attended the rally while in town helping her daughter move into her new apartment in Virginia. “I know a lot of people who work for conservative organizations and I know that small businesses and … individual people are both suffering because people who live and work here, their whole lifestyle has changed by not being able to go out or socialize in the community like they used to. And businesses are suffering because they’re not going to be getting the people who are unvaccinated in as patrons any longer,” she said.
Deretich shared her beliefs that “everyone should have the freedom to decide what kind of medical procedures are implemented on their own bodies” and that “the federal government should stay out of personal decisions, especially private, personal, bodily autonomy decisions.” She characterized the vaccine mandate as “totally unconstitutional and immoral.”
A resident of the Minneapolis area, Deretich noted that Minneapolis recently implemented a vaccine mandate for public spaces similar to the District's and Boston's mandates.” She vowed that “I will not be going to Minneapolis or going into any Minneapolis businesses as a result of the mandate.”
Chris O’Neill, a resident of nearby Arlington, Virginia, suggested that the vaccine mandate resulted in “a couple of businesses that I frequented on a regular basis shutting down immediately.” O’Neill pointed to concerns about vaccine effectiveness when discussing his rationale for opposing the mandate.
“Dr. [Anthony] Fauci himself just admitted recently, as well as the head of the [National Institutes of Health] and a few others … that the vaccines do not stop the spread of COVID-19,” he declared. “There’s really no difference in the amount of spread from getting the vaccine and that means that it’s totally a personal choice, totally a personal choice. It doesn’t affect anyone else, just you, and we’re just shutting everyone down because of this.”
According to data collected by the city last updated Monday, 89% of Washington residents are either partially or fully vaccinated, while 68% are fully vaccinated. The nation’s capital has slightly higher vaccination rates compared to the nation as a whole, where CDC data shows that 75% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 63% are fully vaccinated.
The implementation of the vaccine mandate in Washington comes two days after the United States Supreme Court found Biden’s mandate requiring employers with more than 100 employees to subject their workers to weekly testing and mask wearing or forcing them to take the COVID-19 vaccine unconstitutional. At the same time, the justices declined to invalidate the administration’s mandate requiring healthcare workers employed at facilities participating in the Medicaid and Medicare programs to take the vaccine.
Saturday’s demonstration is not the only anti-vaccine mandate rally scheduled in Washington. A larger protest, called “Defeat the Mandates: An American Homecoming,” is planned for Jan. 23 on the National Mall.
The protest, spearheaded by mRNA vaccine pioneer Robert Malone, will consist of a march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. After the one-mile march, “recording artists, prominent doctors, journalists, pro athletes, actors and premier thought leaders will give a series of inspiring talks and musical performances.”
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org