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Anti-vaccine protests: what do they demand from the government?

Since restrictions on liberties were first implemented, thousands have protested measures from mask-wearing to vaccine mandates. What is their reasoning?

Swedes Protest Against Covid-19 Measures
Jonas GratzerGetty Images

Though covid-19 cases are soaring, with deaths rising to meet it, anti-vaccine protestors have continued to defy rules and march against measures to tackle the virus. 20,000 people turned up at the Lincoln Memorial last Sunday to march against what they say are injustices.

The protest in Washington DC was billed as a protest of mandates, but, like most anti-vax protests in the US, was filled with conspiracy theories, and anti-Semitic tropes and equivalences. Attacks against all vaccines are commonplace, as well as false facts on how they don't work. Spoiler: they do!

So let's take a dive in.

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Against measures to tackle the pandemic

A real bone of contention for protestors is proof-of-vaccine requirements to enter many indoor places. While not a federal rule, states like New York and the District of Columbia have introduced the requirement. Many people who have not had the vaccine see this as an attack on their god-given right to eat a burger indoors.

Joking aside, another reason for this anger is the belief that the rules will continue beyond the pandemic. While this likely stems from a general mistrust of government (we'll get into that a bit later), there is no evidence to suggest this is plausible. The UK has announced that by the end of March there will no longer be covid-19 restrictions, and there is little to no chance that even a vaccinated person would continue to be happy following restrictions to their daily lives forevermore.

Even light measures, such as mask wearing, have been politicized beyond the point of credulity. In Australia, a man smashed the covid-19 protective equipment for staff after he was asked to wear a mask indoors. That such a reaction exists to such a simple request points to deep public health problems, where conspiracies surrounding a global pandemic have been allowed to fester and put millions of people's lives at risk.

Conspiracy theories

Organizer Matt Tune, an unvaccinated 48-year-old from Chicago, said he wanted the DC event “to help change the current narrative … which is basically saying that we’re a bunch of weirdos and freaks who don’t care about humanity. And that’s not true at all.”

But if we're looking at what was being said at the rally, there are some truly uncomfortable beliefs espoused; certainly not good for a group who are supposedly not "a bunch of weirdos and freaks."

Protestors at the DC rally claimed:

  • There is a link between vaccines and autism,
  • "The science is settled. [Vaccines] aren't working",
  • Vaccine mandates are like Nazi Germany,
  • That there should be a Nuremberg trial for medical professionals.

Commonplace at US protests are people claiming that the last US election was rigged, that Biden isn't the real president, and that Anthony Fauci and Jacob Rothschild should be exiled or arrested. Regardless about whether the organizers mean to simply protest what they see as government overreach, even though would admit that the people standing next to them make strange bedfellows.

What is the point?

With the pandemic in the US and Europe potentially reaching its final stage according to the WHO, what do the protestors need to protest about? Yes, no one enjoys restrictions on their personal freedoms, but when does the line between supporting a community and supporting the individual become blurred? There are many people with legitimate grievances surround vaccine mandates, especially those in minority communities in the US that have been the targets of lethal government testing through vaccines. But these people are not going on stage with covid-19 deniers and anti-Semitic propagandists.

With regard to how long the restrictions will last, crucial midterm elections coming up toward the end of this year mean continued covid-19 restrictions beyond their usefulness would be another electoral blow for the embattled president. Biden needs every vote he can get, and turning off 50 percent of the electorate by pushing laws which half of Americans find unpalatable is out of the question.

While the pandemic continues, the protests will continue. But their pressure is extremely unlikely to lead to a volte-face from the Biden administration, at least while the pandemic still has its teeth still sunk into the belly of the US.


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