Hundreds of protestors gathered at the Oklahoma Capitol on Saturday, August 14, to protest against COVID restrictions, including mask and vaccine mandates.
A long line formed outside the Capitol building as many filled the rotunda while singing patriotic songs and reciting the pledge of allegiance. Some protestors held signs against mandates and in support of medical freedom.
Citizens organized the “Oklahoma Freedom Rally” to show that Oklahomans intend to “not bow to tyranny.” The event was primarily planned by John Bennett, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.
Bennett said that Oklahomans refuse to be locked down or be forced to receive involuntary vaccinations. He said that state residents believe “we are free to choose our own decisions” rather than be forced into them by an “overreaching government that peddles fear.” He added that it is only a matter of time before everyone will need the permission of the government “to do anything.”
Several attendees said that they were thankful for the availability of the vaccine, although they did not want to be forced to take the shots. Daniel Navejas referred to the government’s response as a “plan-demic and a sham-demic.” Chesney Thompson is a phlebologist who said she has used extensive PPE throughout the pandemic and did not want the state to take away her livelihood.
In July, state health experts urged Republican Governor Kevin Stitt to issue an emergency declaration that would include a mask mandate for children in Oklahoma schools during the coming school year. Stitt responded by saying he would not make such a declaration.
Several Oklahoma hospitals have planned on vaccination mandates for employees. Several Republican state lawmakers have responded by asking the governor to protect private employees from such mandates as a condition of employment.
Dr. Lancy Frye, Oklahoma’s Health Commissioner, has taken a position on indoor mask use that differs from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He told Oklahoma City’s KOCO on Saturday that there are parts of the state that “just don’t have the population density,” and fully vaccinated people in safe environments should not be forced to wear a mask.
Saturday’s rally was peaceful and saw several hundred attendees unable to enter the Capitol building because of the size of the crowd.