Demonstrators rally against Washington state COVID mandates
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Opponents of restrictions intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 rallied at the state Capitol on Saturday, calling on attendees to remain politically active in hopes of electing more conservative lawmakers.
The Washington State Patrol estimated that about 700 people showed up for the demonstration, called “Government Resistance Impedes Tyranny,” The Seattle Times reported. Some local semi-truck drivers and other vehicles participated in a convoy to attend the protest.
Protesters heard from speakers including Tim Eyman, an anti-tax activist, who railed against Gov. Jay Inslee’s public health restrictions put in place during the pandemic. Some of the mandates have already ended, such as a vaccine requirement for large events that was lifted March 1. A statewide mask requirement for schools, grocery stores, bars and other businesses is set to lift on March 12.
A COVID-19 vaccine requirement for state and school employees and private health care workers remains in effect.
The rally was organized by a coalition of groups, including the Washington Three Percenters, which has for years organized against what it perceives as government tyranny.
Some attendees carried flags and signs decrying “tyranny.” Gadsden “Don’t Tread On Me” flags were plentiful, as were those supporting former President Donald Trump and others with expletives aimed at President Joe Biden.
Several conservative political activists and politicians used the event to give stump speeches and to raise money for various lawsuits against state agencies.
State Sen. Phil Fortunato, a Republican from Auburn, told the crowd that it is “horrible being in the minority.” He asked people living in Democratic districts to work to elect more Republicans.
Republican Rep. Robert Sutherland of Granite Falls told the crowd he was denied entrance to the Statehouse on Friday because he refused to get tested for COVID-19.
“I don’t have COVID. I’m healthy. You can’t keep the people’s representatives from working,” he said. Sutherland said he yelled an expletive at the Legislature’s sergeant-at-arms, prompting cheers from the crowd.