A heated speech by Tory political consultant Roger Stone ignited a crowd of nearly 250 at a rally in Lakeland supporting the right of healthcare workers to reject an employer’s vaccine mandate.
Stone said America is the last and greatest place for freedom on Earth, “that’s 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. Communist China. I say: ‘Never!’ “
The Saturday afternoon rally began in a Tigertown parking lot and moved to the sidewalks of Lakeland Hills Boulevard, where attendees held up signs promoting freedom of choice and opposing vaccine mandates.
Stone, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, asked to speak at the rally after seeing it posted on Facebook, according to Lindsey Grych, a nurse practitioner and one of the rally’s organizers.
This was Lakeland’s second protest against medical warrants organized through a private Facebook group, Healthcare Freedom for Healthcare Workers. An August walk in Munn Park was also sponsored by Polk County Moms for America.
Before walking through the crowd to meet and take pictures, Stone made a promise and a call to action.
“We pledge today to work together, to pray together, to fight together, to save this country from the evil cabal of media, government and Big Pharma who seek to destroy us.”
Stone, a long-time ally of former President Donald Trump, was convicted in November 2019 of witness tampering, obstruction and misrepresentation in the investigation of Robert Mueller’s special counsel. Trump commuted his 40-month sentence before going to jail.
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.
Additionally, private companies employing more than 100 people should require workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19. His order is challenged in court.
Grych said when she founded the healthcare group in May, she felt angry and betrayed employers were moving towards requiring a COVID-19 vaccine. She said she viewed the tenures as disrespectful to healthcare workers who sacrificed themselves from the start.
“A general mandate is not appropriate without careful consideration of health and personal beliefs,” she said. “We have all been fighting on the front lines of this epidemic against this virus for over a year and I believe we have all earned the right to make our own healthcare decisions based on our observations alone.
“Whether it’s for or against the vaccine, you have to sit down and ask why are they censoring anyone who questions the vaccine? Why are they shutting down and limiting all possible treatment for COVID other than vaccination? When in the history of medicine have we ever approached medicine in this way? “
Regarding the risk versus the benefits of vaccines, Grych said she insisted with her patients that it was absolutely their choice, “because where there is a risk there should be a risk. choice”.
A rally participant named Kathleen, who declined to give her last name, said her interest in opposing a vaccination mandate is based on her years as a nutrition educator working with school nutrition.
“I’m about freedom of choice,” she said. “It’s good that (the vaccine) is available, but being forced on people when there are other alternatives … is not fair.”
She said her family has had COVID and thinks she has enough antibodies to stay virus free.
A few weeks ago, the Watson Clinic adjusted its employee vaccination mandate to allow certain exemptions, Grych said.
“We united a few weeks ago against the Watson Clinic’s vaccination mandate and came out with a victory, with religious and medical exemptions,” she said.