Anti-mandate freedom rally met with counterprotesters in Richland

Hundreds lined the streets outside of the Richland School District's administrative building Tuesday night

RICHLAND, Wash. — A “Freedom for Choice” rally held in front of the Richland School District’s administrative building Tuesday night was met by counterprotesters arguing for the mask and vaccine mandate.

This is the second Freedom for Choice rally held in the Tri-Cities in August.

Dozens of anti-mandate ralliers crowded outside the building waving signs and chanting. Organizers said they weren’t protesting masks or vaccines but rather the mandates recently issued by Governor Jay Inslee.

Annette Parrish Rose, one of the organizers for the choice rally, said “the goal is to show our local leaders and our local school boards that we have a lot of support.”

“Our governor, this one man who I have never met, is going to tell me what I have to inject into my body? I feel like that’s a slippery slope that we’re going to have a hard time climbing back out of,” Rose said. “This is not about being anti-mask or anti-vax. This is about preserving our freedom to choose.”

Rose said she hopes local leaders will fight for their beliefs and rights.

“I think it’s not a one size fits all answer and I think that’s what we’re trying to get our local leaders to stand up and say look, eastern Washington is not western Washington,” Rose said. “Most of the people have gotten the vaccine. Most of the people wear masks. And that’s awesome, good for them you know, I’m glad that that is there for them. But for the people that choose not to or have an issue with it, I can’t believe we’re willing to lose that many people to say get it or be fired. I mean that’s a scary place to be.”

Charlotte Later, the organizer of the counterprotest, said she feels “concerned” due to “a lot of disinformation that gets out at rallies loudly.”

“I feel like we were finally given the common-sense tools to fight this and it’s very frustrating that people aren’t taking advantage of those,” Later said. “I know there’s a lot of hesitant people out there and I think they need to see there are people that support vaccines and who want to use these tools to fight COVID.”
Later’s husband works in the ER and she said he often comes home stressed out and tired.
“Get your vaccine because it’s important, it’s how we fight it, it’ll keep you from getting sick, it’ll keep you from getting other people sick, and it’ll keep the hospitals from filling up,” Later said. “More than anything, these people are coming to these rallies and even if it’s anti mandate they’re still spreading anti-vax and anti-mask. They need to overcome this fear and this hesitancy about vaccination.”

KAPP/KVEW reached out to Ty Beaver, a spokesperson with the Richland SD, who provided this statement:

“District leaders are aware of the events planned to take place outside the district’s administrative offices the evening of Aug. 24 and support every community member’s right to express their views. The district and Board have received email messages from parents and community members sharing their perspective on the district’s back-to-school plans for the 2021-22 school year and value that input. COVID-19 continues to present challenges and the district is committed to meeting the needs of all students, families, and staff and the requirements set by the state. We appreciate everyone’s patience and flexibility as RSD, just as other Washington state school districts, work to adapt to frequently changing circumstances.”

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