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Local group protests against mask and vaccine mandates in Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls

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IDAHO FALLS – About 40 people occupied the four corners of Hitt Road and 17th Street in Idaho Falls for several hours Wednesday to rally against mask and vaccine mandates.

Don Schanz, one of the protest organizers, tells EastIdahoNews.com the purpose of gathering on the street corner was to stand up for individual rights and personal freedom when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions and to encourage others to support that freedom.

“We are perfectly willing to have people say they like masks or they like vaccines. They can do whatever they want. It’s about freedom,” Schanz says. “We don’t think that force is the way to get people to wear a mask or to get injections.”

Schanz says they are also opposed to forcing children to wear masks or to get vaccinated in order to attend school and they’re opposed to forcing adults to get vaccinated to keep their job.

In September, President Joe Biden mandated that all federal employees be vaccinated in response to a large section of the nation’s population that was refusing to accept vaccination. Thus far, COVID-19 has killed more than 749,000 Americans, including 3,578 people in Idaho.

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“Parents have the choice, the right to be able to raise their kids (and decide) what they’re going to put in their kid’s bodies — not the school, not the state, not the governor, not the World Health Organization, not the National Institutes of Health, not anybody, other than the parents,” Schanz says.

The rally happened from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and was part of an international day of protest sponsored by Children’s Health Defense, which is devoted to improving the lives of children.

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Rally participants holding up signs along 17th Street in Idaho Falls. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

The protesters in Idaho Falls are part of a group called A5 — American Alliance for Advancing Awareness and Action — and could be seen holding signs with phrases such as, “No unconstitutional medical mandates,” “UnMasked UnVaxxed UnInfected UnAfraid,” and “Stand up against mandates.”

Others participating in the rally included co-organizer Halli Stone and Sandra Hokanson, who just lost a bid for the Idaho Falls City Council against Lisa Burtenshaw.

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Hokanson was born in Russia and moved to Idaho Falls 17 years ago. She says mask and vaccine mandates are something she’d expect to see in Russia, not in the U.S., and she’s grateful to her adoptive parents for bringing her to America for a better life.

She is proud to live in a country where every citizen has certain “unalienable rights” and that’s what compelled her to stand up for those rights from the beginning of her campaign.

“I stand for freedom and when I said that, I meant it,” Hokanson says. “We have our rights. We have our choices and we should be able to use those. I might have lost the race right now, but it’s not over yet.”

Besides the rally at the intersection, a small group of protestors also gathered in front of the Eastern Idaho Public Health building on Hollipark Drive for several hours Wednesday.

Schanz says the group is working to organize another rally at schools in Idaho Falls School District 91 and Bonneville Joint School District 93 to stand up for children’s rights.

The group is holding a meeting at the Shilo Inn Convention Center at 8 p.m. Wednesday for anyone who’s interested.

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