Crowd protests mask, vaccine mandates

A crowd gathered on Elmira Street on Sunday to protest mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates that are being enforced in the state.

ATHENS TOWNSHIP — A rally against COVID-19 vaccination mandates and mask mandates was held in Athens Township on Sunday, with about two dozen people gathering on the sidewalk next to Walmart.

Protestors displayed U.S. flags and homemade signs, while passersby honked their horns in support.

Rally organizer Lisa Basta said that she put it together in support of friends who work in healthcare and do not want to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’m also greatly concerned about when people do quit — if they quit, which it kind of looks like they are — what’s going to happen to our hospital system,” said Basta.

Wendy May, another organizer of the rally, works in the healthcare industry and stated that she “believe(s) in medical choice.”

Basta went on to say she understands that hospitals and other employers are under pressure to put vaccination mandates in place, but she believes the choice should be left to the individual.

“I’m not here to argue if the vaccine works,” Basta said. “If a person chooses to not get a vaccine and loses their job and they want to stand for that, I’m supporting that.”

When asked what would make her feel the rally was a success, Basta noted that the goal was to raise awareness more than anything else.

“We’re letting the employers know, we’re letting people know that maybe this isn’t the choice for everybody,” said Basta, “and that they should have the option to make their own choice about what happens with them medically.”

“I don’t think I’m going to change any state policies, obviously,” Basta continued, “but at least make people aware.”

May similarly noted that she hopes “people would stand up and fight for their rights and their medical choice instead of just thinking that they have to (get vaccinated).”

Basta and May have another rally planned for Towanda on Saturday, Sept. 11. Protestors will gather from 2 to 4 p.m. on the Route 6 Memorial Bridge. Anyone looking for more information on the rally can find the Towanda Support Medical Choice-No Mandates Rally event on Facebook.

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