PHOTOS: Statewide Rallies Against Vaccine Mandates Draw Over a Thousand Across Montana
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Update (11/30/2021): A federal judge has blocked CMS vaccine mandates for healthcare workers.
Yesterday, over a thousand Montanans showed up for statewide rallies against vaccine mandates imposed on healthcare workers by the Biden Administration. Demonstrators attended rallies in Billings, Bozeman, Glendive, Great Falls, Hamilton, Helena, Kalispell, Miles City, Missoula, and Sydney at 2:00pm in highly visible areas in city centers and shopping districts across the state.
In Missoula, around 50 people were already out by 2pm with the crowd size swelling to around 200 people by just after 3pm, stretching from Costco to Mullan Road on Reserve Street. Families, parents, children, workers and people from all walks of life, including Rep. Brad Tschida (HD-97), showed up to support workers.
Healthcare workers statewide are being forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine or find a new job by hospital administrators who are dependent on financial reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Federal agency whose mandate is still in force. The OSHA vaccine mandate was halted earlier in November.
Community Medical Center in Missoula shared in a letter to healthcare workers, “We fully support the federal vaccine mandate,” and told employees they would have to comply with the federal mandate by January 4th or be fired. The hospital has been hemorrhaging care beds due to staffing issues, losing 32% of its overall capacity since last October.
Sara Ohara, a nurse at Community Medical Center, helped organize area healthcare workers for the rally. “Here in Montana, even though we are mostly a freedom-loving people, there are some in authority and in big business who would usurp our freedoms,” Ohara told Missoula County Tyranny. “We are rallying to say to them that we will not comply. We will not allow them to take our freedoms from us.”
In Bozeman, a large crowd of nearly 100 citizens turned out in support of healthcare workers. The Bozeman-based Montanans for Health and Family Rights unfurled their “Vote For Medical Freedom” banner they used to advocate for legislation meant to protect Montanans health freedom rights including advocating for the passage of House Bill 702 in the most recent session of the Montana Legislature. The new state law makes vaccination status a protected class and makes it unlawful to discriminate or require any vaccine unless the requirement is defined in state law, such as for schools. A representative from Senator Steve Daines office also came out to interview and take footage of rally attendees in Bozeman.
Most drivers-by honked or gave the thumbs-up in support of the demonstrators. A few drivers gave the one-finger salute. In Bozeman, an irate driver who flipped-off attendees ended up rear-ending the two vehicles in front of them. When attendees went out to offer help, the driver was visibly angry, refused the help, and started yelling. The demonstrators continued with their rally, undeterred.
A Veteran who attended in Missoula, Richard Wilkins, shared that most people responded very positively and that the few negative responses were people suffering from a sort of cognitive dissonance about their own choices. “Those who react negatively are filled with fear and hate,” Wilkins shared. “They are so desperate to be right, after all, they offered up their bodies, and many, now, their children. They know deep down they’ve been taken for fools.”
Healthcare workers are working on their next steps. A meeting of healthcare workers at Sidney Health Center is set for 6:30pm today. The meeting will include attorneys specializing in mandates, Montana legislators, strategists and grassroots organizers, and Attorney General Austin Knudsen will also be in attendance. Knudsen filed suit against CMS two weeks ago for their federal vaccine mandate. Knudsen is confident the suit will be successful and told healthcare workers to “hang in there” in an interview with Aaron Flint on Montana Talks radio.
Check out more footage and photos from around Montana:
Videographer Brian Stelling provided drone footage of the rally in Missoula:
Montanans for Health and Family Freedom:
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