A Shaw Park rally decried a new Biden administration workplace rule (Lily Kleinhenz)
A Shaw Park rally decried a new Biden administration workplace rule

Lily Kleinhenz

Shaw Park Rally Rejects Workplace COVID Regulation

October 7, 2021

“We’re Americans, we have got to draw the line somewhere. For me, having the government mandate that I have to get this vaccine, that’s where I’m drawing the line, and I know a lot of you feel the same way,” said Marc Cox, host of a morning show of the same name on 97.1 FM, a St. Louis conservative talk radio station. Cox spoke at a Shaw Park rally on Friday, October 1st, which demanded Missouri Governor Mike Parson call a special session of the Missouri General Assembly as an attempt to “stand up to the Federal Mandate regarding the ‘vaccine,’” according to a poster advertising the event.

The vaccine mandate that the poster refers to is a regulation President Biden asked OSHA to draft that will require the staff of businesses with more than a hundred employees to get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. As of publication, that regulation has not yet gone into effect.

A man carrying a Gadsden flag signs a petition to recall St. Louis County Executive Sam Page. (Lily Kleinhenz)

Gathered around the speakers’ pavilion were dozens of attendees, standing or sitting on picnic blankets, some holding Gadsden flags and protest signs. Almost no one in attendance wore masks.

Signs read phrases along a similar vein varying from a simple “No Mandate”, to “No Jab, No Job, I did Nazi that coming.” A booth situated just outside the pavilion displayed a banner reading, “Facemasks do not stop COVID per science, but does support the evils of Marxism — Change my mind.” The booth’s owner, a man who went by the name Pharmacist Tucker, patrolled the crowd and conversed with other attendees.

“I’m here to listen to all points of view concerning face masks, COVID, and anything else that’s being discussed,” said Tucker. “I’m a pharmacist by trade, and with my pharmacist knowledge, face masks are ineffective at present with COVID, but they do support the evils of Marxism.” Tucker said he had retail experience in pharmacy for over ten years, and mail order and pharmacy benefit managerial experience for three years. 

Tucker said that “in Marxist societies, you’re trying to silence your subjects, because in Marxist countries, there are no citizens … There’s different branches of Marxism: Atheism, Satanism, Communism, Socialism, and they all have human government as the god. And that is the definition of evil by not giving all praise, honor and glory to God.”

A man going by Pharmacist Tucker denied the efficacy of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Shane LaGesse)

He said his stance on the mandate was that “face masks are not functional to prevent virus transmission,” and that people are “at a higher risk of respiratory diseases, because once your body is trying to exhale — if face masks are truly effective — it’s catching what the body’s trying to exhale. But when you inhale it again, that’s going to appear in your respiratory tract.” The current medical consensus backed by the CDC is that face masks are safe and effective — masks do not cause the wearer to inhale harmful substances. Tucker said he was advocating for their use to be “voluntary, not mandatory.”

“I do keep an open mind. And I’m here to have civil, productive, academic discussion and debate and conversation, because that’s what makes America great: great discussion, great debate, and to hear all sides in a respectful manner,” said Tucker. “I might disagree with what you have to say, but I will support your right to say it.”

This sentiment was shared by some other attendees at the rally, including Mark Lehne, a St. Louis County resident. Lehne claimed that masks do not prevent transmission because droplets were aerosolized, a common belief stemming from a misinterpretation of a scientific study

“I originally was going to [get vaccinated]; I thought, ‘man, this thing’s awesome.’ Operation Warp Speed, whether you like Trump or not –sometimes he says some really disturbing things — but the Operation worked, which I look at as a miracle … And then I found out you can still get COVID.” Lehne explained his concerns about having vaccinated people with asymptomatic cases still being allowed to go into public spaces, and claimed the antibodies from already having COVID-19 were more effective than the vaccine. This claim has been disproven by the CDC.

Lehne cited a doctor he sourced for his claims, saying, “The guy you want to look at … he’s very, very smart. He’s a pathologist, and what he’s doing now is. he is going back into people, his patients that have died that have been vaccinated, and he’s performing autopsies on them out of his own pocket.” The doctor Lehne references is Ryan Cole. Cole currently sits on the Idaho Regional Health Board, and his claims that vaccines cause cancer and weaken the immune system have made him “an extreme example of GOP-driven resistance to not only mandates but basic medical guidance” to critics.

“I’ll say, I didn’t think this way a year ago. A year ago, I wouldn’t have been sitting out here. I was absolutely frightened a year ago,” Lehne concluded.

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Speakers at the event ranged from personalities such as Cox to state politicians — such as Senators Bill Eigel and Bob Onder and Representative Nick Schroer, all representing parts of St. Charles County — and to ambassadors from Informed Health Choice Missouri, an organization that promotes the empowerment of Missourians “to make their own free choice regarding health matters without coercion,” according to the group’s website. The majority of IHCM’s legislative agenda focuses on a much more specific issue: opposition to COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

The organization claims some responsibility for helping pass HB 271, which was recently signed into law by Governor Parson, who said in a press release it was aimed at prohibiting local governments from mandating vaccines and creating vaccine passports. The law will also require local leaders to be “more transparent in their reasoning and accountable for decisions when it comes to public health orders.”

“I’m now talking to people who are in tears when they call my radio station because they’re about to lose their livelihoods because they don’t get this jab. That’s not America,” said Cox. “The governor needs to [call a special session] so we can stand up against [the] vaccine mandate.”

“It’s a run-of-the-mill workplace regulation,” said Democrat Ian Mackey in an interview, who represents most of Clayton and other parts of St. Louis County, in the state legislature, of the announced OSHA regulation. Mackey said the regulation is “just like how OSHA says we can’t have asbestos in our walls and we have to mop up spills when they occur.”

While the agency’s proposed rule will carry similar legal weight as rules regarding traditional workplace safety practices, its form and political connotations differ greatly. The rule, which is still being drafted, takes the form of an Emergency Temporary Standard, according to the Biden administration.

This regulation is not a vaccine mandate.

— Ian Mackey

Mackey makes another notable distinction: “This regulation is not a vaccine mandate.” Employees have the ability to choose to get tested every week, Mackey said, if they do not want to get the vaccine. Speakers at the rally, however, held that people were getting fired from their jobs for not being vaccinated.

The crowd applauded as Cox described how a business owner called into his show, saying that he had offered a $1,000 bonus to his employees if they got vaccinated, and “nobody took him up on it,” Cox said.

Following Cox, Missouri Senator Bill Eigel (R-23) advocated for Missourians to make their own choices regarding the vaccine. “We don’t have to do what Joe Biden tells us to do … He works for us,” said Eigel, echoing shouts from the crowd. Eigel laid out his three-part plan: First, “I want to ban vaccine mandates in the state of Missouri.” “Second, I want to ban vaccine passports in the state of Missouri.” And third, “I want to turn back every single dime from Washington, D.C., that’s trying to come into this state to coerce us into doing things that we don’t want to do,” said Eigel.

Eigel then introduced one of his Republican peers, Senator Bob Onder from Missouri’s 2nd state senate district, neighboring Eigel’s, both in St. Charles County. Onder began his 11-minute-long speech by referencing Joe Biden’s campaign promise to unite the country. “What did President Biden say three weeks ago? … He said, ‘What more evidence do you need? We have been patient long enough but your refusal has cost us, and now it’s time to take more action.’ Are those the words of a uniter? Or are those the words of a tyrant?” The crowd exclaims in unison, “Tyrant!”

Onder describes his use of the words ‘COVID tyranny,’ saying that when COVID started, “We thought we were all in it together, maybe we saw things a little differently than the so-called public health experts like Fauci or Garza,” referring to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Alexander Garza, the Chief Community Health Officer at SSM Health. “But I think, as time goes on, we’ve learned that we’re not in it together, that there are COVID tyrants who are never, ever, ever going to let go of this kind of power until we tell them, ‘enough is enough,’” said Onder.

Listing his experience in the medical field, Onder says, “I am chopped liver compared to a Master’s of Public Health. Because, whereas I can treat any of you for any disease within the scope of my license, I can prescribe any medication … A Master’s in Public Health has way more power and more authority. He or she can shut down a whole economy. He or she can tell you you need to wear a mask. He or she can tell you your kids can’t go to school, that your restaurant has to shut down, that your health club has to close…”

Onder continued, saying that a public health expert can prevent doctors from prescribing Hydroxychloroquine, a drug promoted by former president Donald Trump to treat COVID-19, while the Food and Drug Administration cautions otherwise, or Ivermectin, a drug used to “treat parasitic worms,” according to the FDA, neither of which have been authorized to treat COVID-19 by the agency.

“Ladies and gentleman, you are under attack,” said one of the speakers, who did not give his name, simply stating that he works for a local government. “Get that in your head. You are in a state of psychological warfare, and it’s happening to you day in and day out. The evidence shows we’re at war. Get out of your Stockholm Syndrome … These hospitals have become murder facilities. Stand, do not kneel.”

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