Thousands of people marched on Washington, D.C. on Sunday in opposition of vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE
Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Demonstrators gathered in Washington, D.C., on Sunday to oppose vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 regulations.
Organizers for the "Defeat the Mandates: An American Homecoming" march said they expected about 20,000 attendees at the rally, according to a permit issued by the National Park Service but the Washington Post reported a "smaller crowd of several thousand" on the National Mall Sunday afternoon.
A news release ahead of the rally said the march is a response to two years of "increasing governmental overreach" in the form of mandates at local, state, and federal levels.
"The goal is to show a unified front of bringing people together -- vaccinated, unvaccinated, Democrats, Republicans, all together in solidarity," organizer Matt Tune told the Washington Post.
Protesters began marching from the Washington Monument at 11:30 a.m. and were encouraged to stop at war memorials on their way to the Lincoln Memorial to "remember those who have sacrificed lives and loved ones so that America might be free."
Chants of "no more mandate" were heard while marchers carried posters and flags with false statements such as "vaccines are mass kill bioweapons" and a bus parked near the Washington Monument bore a sign that read "ARREST OR EXILE" along with photos of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and British investment Banker Jacob Rothschild.
Others were seen carrying signs in support of former President Donald Trump and chanting anti-Biden.
Paul Alexander, a health researcher and former Trump administration official, was one of several speakers at the rally and called for liability protections for vaccine companies to be dropped.
"If they want your child to take any of these vaccines, you stand up and say, remove liability protection," Alexander said.
Dr. Pierre Cory of the Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance said early treatment should be prioritized above vaccination.
"They tell us to vaccinate ourselves endlessly and boost ourselves, even though that single strategy has failed, is failing and will continue to fail," Cory said.
About 20% of Americans have declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19 despite evidence that the vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious illness and death associated with the virus.
The Supreme Court earlier this month blocked President Joe Biden's vaccine or testing mandate for large private corporations, however, the high court allowed a vaccine requirement for healthcare workers at facilities that receive federal money and many major corporate entities have adopted their own vaccine requirements in the absence of a federal mandate.
Washington, D.C., enacted a vaccination mandate for indoor activities just days before the rally.