WASHINGTON — People against vaccine mandates arrived in D.C. Sunday for the Defeat the Mandates rally on Sunday.
Thousands of protestors rallied on the Mall, arriving just a week after D.C. mandated proof-of-vaccination be shown inside local businesses. Residents are concerned that city-wide requirement will provoke a clash between out-of-town protestors and locals.
"There is a concern, especially with the anniversary of Jan. 6 just having occurred, the anniversary of the inauguration just having occurred, and all of the division that’s going on, all of the heightened emotions that are being expressed," said resident Brian Kim.
Anti-vaccine purveyor Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke to WUSA9 ahead of the rally.
"Historically, people have been very well-behaved and I believe at this rally people will be very well behaved," he told WUSA9 in an interview. He said protestors were aware of D.C.'s mandates.
Kennedy is banned from Instagram and is one of the “Disinformation Dozen," for his false claims about vaccines and conspiracy theories about Dr. Anthony Fauci.
"Americans want democracy back, and this rally is a demand by Americans to get their democracy back," he said.
On the Defeat the Mandates Facebook group, protestors planned where to stay, some going to hotels in Virginia to avoid the proof of vaccination mandate.
"Listen, any rally that you have in D.C. can be a super-spreader event," said Kennedy when asked if he could promise it would not be. "And I don’t expect that this will be, I can't guarantee anything. All I can say is people have the right to petition their government. And the press has been encouraging all kinds of public gatherings if they fit the narrative. It's only if, those issues are only raised if it's a gathering that doesn't fit the narrative."
Organizers released a statement on Saturday:
"Organizers of the March to Defeat the Mandates wish to express complete support for the legacy and commitment to nonviolent, peaceful protest that Martin Luther King Jr. embodied. Dr. King’s legacy of unity and peace is the essence by which our March was founded. We condemn all organizations and individuals who would use the March as an opportunity to further their own agendas of extremism, intolerance, and violence.
We have contracted out comprehensive private security who are working in concert with local and federal law enforcement in keeping the March peaceful and in the spirit of Dr. King. Considering recently raised concerns, we have increased our already comprehensive security measures. Participants in the march are asked to please report any suspicious or threatening activity to law enforcement which will be on hand at the March."
The march started at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. Attendees marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, where speakers took the stage. U.S. Park Police will temporarily closed 17th Street Northwest.