A passionate speech by conservative political consultant Roger Stone fired up a crowd of nearly 250 people at a Lakeland rally supporting the right of health-care workers to reject an employer’s vaccine mandate.
Stone declared that America is the last, greatest place for freedom on Earth, “which is why they want to destroy our economy, why they want to destroy our freedom and why they want an authoritarian system that is a model of the Communist Chinese. I say, ‘Never!’ ”
The Saturday afternoon rally started in a Tigertown parking lot and moved to the sidewalks of Lakeland Hills Boulevard, where participants waved signs favoring freedom of choice and opposing vaccine mandates.
Stone, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, asked to speak at the rally after seeing it publicized on Facebook, according to Lindsey Grych , a nurse practitioner and one of the rally’s organizers.
This was the second Lakeland demonstration against medical mandates organized through a private Facebook group, Healthcare Freedom for Healthcare Workers. An August march in Munn Park was also sponsored by Polk County Moms for America .
Before moving through the crowd to meet and take photos Stone made a pledge and a call to action.
“We bind ourselves today to work together, to pray together, to fight together, to save this country from the evil cabal of media, and government and Big Pharma that would seek to destroy us.”
Stone, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, was convicted in November 2019 of witness tampering, obstruction and making false statements in connection with Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation. Trump commuted his 40-month sentence before he was to report to prison.
Vaccine mandates have been very much in the public consciousness lately. President Joe Biden earlier this month issued an executive order requiring vaccines for all federal employees and contractors.
In addition, private companies employing more than 100 people would need to require workers to be vaccinated or get tested weekly for COVID-19. His order is being challenged in court.
Grych said when she founded the healthcare group in May, she felt angry and betrayed that employers were moving in the direction of mandating a COVID-19 vaccine. She said she views mandates as disrespectful to health-care employees who have sacrificed since the beginning.
“A blanket mandate isn’t appropriate without heavy scrutiny of health and personal beliefs,” she said. “We have all fought on the front lines of this epidemic against this virus for over a year and I think we have all earned the right to make our own health-care decisions based on our observations alone.
“Whether for or against the vaccination, you have to sit back and ask why are they censoring anyone who questions the vaccine? Why are they shutting and limiting any possible treatment for COVID outside the vaccination? When in the history of medicine have we ever approached medicine this way?”
When it comes to risk vs, the benefit of the vaccines, Grych said she emphasizes to her patients that it’s absolutely their choice, “because where there is risk there should be choice.”
A rally participant named Kathleen, who declined to give her last name, said her interest opposing a vaccine mandate is based on her years as a nutrition educator working with school nutrition.
“I’m about freedom of choice,” she said. “It’s okay that it’s (the vaccine) available, but to be forced upon people when there are other alternatives…isn’t right.”
She said her family has had COVID and believe they have enough antibodies to stay virus-free.
A few weeks ago Watson Clinic adjusted its employee vaccine mandate fto allow for certain exemptions, Grych said.
“We stood together a few short weeks ago against the Watson Clinic vaccine mandate and we came out of that with a victory, with religious and medical exemptions,” she said.