Anti-vaccine-mandate demonstration pops up in Richland

RICHLAND, Wash. — Local workers for state and federal agencies and others who hold anti-mandate and anti-COVID-19-vaccine views put their figurative foot down Thursday in Richland.

Boots, work shoes, children’s shoes and notes lined the sidewalk on the west side of George Washington Way along the grass of John Dam Plaza starting early Thursday morning. We counted 115 sets of shoes as of 9:15 a.m. Here are some of them — and the messages attached:

The Facebook group “Hanford and PNNL Workers against the mandate” was used to mobilize people for the event. The private group boasts more than 1,200 members.

Lacey Walter, a volunteer at the event, said she showed up at the sidewalk full of work boots to stand for freedom, saying she cares a great deal about medical freedom.

“Our bodies are quintessential private property. If we give up bodily integrity, then are we really free?” Walter said. “If it’s forced, are we truly free?”

Rep. Brad Klippert, a Kennewick Republican who represents Washington’s 8th District in the state House and is running for Congress, plans to speak to a crowd of people against the vaccine mandate at John Dam Plaza at 5 p.m. On Facebook last Friday, he publicly supported a “No Vaccine Mandate Rally for Federal Contract Workers” event planned the next day in Richland.

“Hanford is vital to the economy of the Tri-Cities. Even if you’re not a Hanford employee yourself, chances are you know someone who is and this will affect you,” he wrote. “Hanford employees have been given an ultimatum to get vaccinated or be fired. They could really use our support! There is strength in numbers!”

Rep. Dan Newhouse, the current Republican Congressman, said last month the state and federal mandates calling for the termination of unvaccinated personnel “are vilifying the men and women who’ve been working round-the-clock for the last year and a half on behalf of Central Washington with no scientific basis. This isn’t the way to promote good will or encourage vaccinations.”

“I stand with the Hanford firefighters who have been working to keep our communities safe for the last year and a half. The nonsensical Biden-Inslee mandates fail to take into consideration the more-than-adequate safety protocols these workers are already following and that it will, once in place, put the safety of our communities at risk by terminating employees whose very role is to protect our communities,” said Rep. Newhouse. “If they truly wanted what was best for Washingtonians and the American people, they would stand down these dictatorial policies.”

Walter, the volunteer, said her family is thinking about moving — away from Richland and out of the state.

“I’m a home care aide and I had a situation where I was around someone and their daughter informed them — because they are around me — that they couldn’t see their grandchildren for two weeks,” Walter explained. “This mentality, this dehumanization and subjugation of other people that are different from you is– nothing’s new under the sun and this never leads to a very good place.”

“History does repeat itself, and when you begin to see this oppression and this shunning of people as being dirty or somehow a threat, it never ends well.”

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