As many as 3,000 people gathered on the state Capitol Campus Sunday afternoon to voice opposition to Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate for state workers.
Inslee’s emergency order requires roughly 63,000 state workers to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or lose their jobs, The Seattle Times reports.
The gathering, officially called the “No, you move” Rally Against the Mandate, got underway about 1 p.m. Sunday. Soon, thousands of people had filled the area between the state Legislative Building and the Temple of Justice.
The gathering didn’t appear to attract a counter-protest.
Washington State Patrol spokesman Chris Loftis estimated the crowd at between 2,500 and 3,000 people. Among the scheduled speakers: conservative activist and south Thurston County resident Glen Morgan, state Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, and former gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp.
Those who took part in the rally repeatedly said that getting the vaccine was a personal choice.
“I feel for those people who are losing their jobs,” said Thurston County resident Dena Eagan. “I’m here to stand with all these other people. It’s our bodies, our choice.”
Eagan attended the rally with Olympia resident Kelly Coyle, a longtime state Department of Transportation employee, who said she was forced into early retirement over the COVID-19 mandate.
Coyle said she sought a religious exemption — and was granted the exemption — but then was told by her employer that they couldn’t accommodate her in the workplace because of the danger she posed to other workers. That’s when Coyle decided to retire, she said.
“We’re adults and we know how to take care of ourselves,” she said. “I don’t believe you should force someone to inject something in their body that they don’t want and lose your livelihood.”
A man who only identified himself as “Brent,” 47, of Graham, said he attended Sunday to support his wife. She’s a school bus driver in the Bethel School District, who is at risk of losing her job if she doesn’t get vaccinated, he said.
However, she is not going to get vaccinated because of her belief in medical freedom, he said.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but she’s not happy about it,” he said.
Cowlitz County resident Theresa Pringle said she attended Sunday’s rally because she doesn’t believe in the mask or vaccine mandate.
“I don’t even get the flu shot,” said Pringle, 65. “That’s where choice comes in. I’m a very healthy retiree who can choose. Some people who are not as healthy also can choose.”
Before she retired, Pringle said she worked with mothers and their children in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.
“I’m a people-loving person, and I have a lot of empathy and sympathy, but it’s not right to force this on people,” she said.