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Rally held to protest mask orders

West Virginia State Senator Mike Azinger, R-Wood, spoke Monday at a rally at Bicentennial Park in downtown Parkersburg to call on the governor and state lawmakers to call a special session of the state legislature to vote against mandates being implemented anywhere in the state. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — A rally was held in downtown Parkersburg on Monday with people protesting against mask and vaccine mandates in the state of West Virginia.

Over 200 people, the majority unmasked, gathered at Bicentennial Park in downtown Parkersburg to call on the governor and state lawmakers to call a special session of the state legislature to vote against mandates being implemented anywhere in the state.

People came with signs that said “We Stand For Freedom,” “My Body My Choice,” “Please Don’t Let Fear Replace Freedom,” “Freedom to Choose,” “We The People Demand to be Heard” and more. Others who said they were healthcare workers had signs that said “Hero to Zero” and “Hero To Fired.” Many people carried American flags and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags.

People who spoke talked about what they felt was uncertainty of the effectiveness of the vaccines and masks in protecting against COVID. Others spoke about not wanting to have to be forced to do something they don’t want to or not comfortable with doing.

State Senator Mike Azinger, R-Wood, said he wants the Legislature to have a special session to pass a bill to protect people’s health freedoms.

“I do not believe a private employer should have the right to mandate their employees to get vaccinated,” he said.

He felt that people should not be forced to put a liquid in their bodies that they have doubts about and question their safety in relation to it.

“We have Constitutional rights,” he said of people having the right to due process.

Del. Roger Conley, R-Wood, spoke about having COVID last year as well as other family members and friends who have gotten the virus, despite precautions being taken.

“Masks don’t work,” he said to enthusiastic cheers.

Heather Farmer, a physician assistant from the Northern Panhandle, asked how many people were in danger of losing their jobs if they don’t get the vaccine and several people raised their hands. She said if officials go through with firing those people it will have a serious impact on healthcare throughout the state and patient care will suffer everywhere.

“This is going to decimate our hospitals,” she said.

She also questioned how the vaccine was approved, what the long-term impacts could be and why other alternative therapies are not being looked at more seriously. She urged people to do their own research into their own health choices.

Gov. Jim Justice was asked about the rally during his daily COVID briefing and the idea of the Legislature being called in for a special session.

“If they want to call themselves in, then they can call themselves in,” he said. “From the standpoint of where I’m at, I have stood firm as far as not putting out any mandates from the standpoint of masks or vaccines or compelling anyone to do anything.

“At this point of time, I’m trying with all in me to not do anything that is going to just prompt more division.”

He talked about school systems having local control.

“We’ve given the school systems local control for them to be making decisions about our kids and everything, because the local people should know better,” Justice said. “We’re trying to work with everyone the best we possibly can, but we really should be getting from our legislators as a whole is get yourself out there and get vaccinated.

“We don’t need division, but if they want to call themselves in, they can surely do that and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.”

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