Latest Rally Continues to Advocate for Freedom Amid Masks and Vaccine Mandates
August 20, 2021, 4:31 PM HST
* Updated August 21, 10:14 AM
Participants in today’s sign waving demonstration in Wailuku continued to advocate for medical freedoms amid mask and vaccine mandates. The demonstration also comes as the state deals with its largest COVID surge since the start of the pandemic with nearly 700 new cases per day over the past week, and nearly 9,200 new cases over two weeks.
The event was visibly smaller than one held last week Friday, but still drew hundreds of participants over the course of the 2.5 hour demonstration. The series of sign-waving events started earlier this month after the state Department of Education announced all student-athletes, athletic staff and volunteers will need to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 24, to participate in school-sanctioned athletic activities this school year.
Demonstrators called it the “final straw,” which came as a predecessor to a host of similar announcements made by other employment, government and education sectors in the days that followed.
In addition to medical freedoms, today’s rally was also part of a statewide demonstration to protect the freedom of choice for first responders. Earlier this month, Governor David Ige announced that all state and county employees are required to provide their vaccination status by Aug. 16, or be subject to regular COVID-19 testing.
Similar demonstrations were planned today at Honolulu Hale on Oʻahu, the Kauaʻi County Council Building, and the Hawaiʻi County Police Station on Hawaiʻi Island.
The message relayed by demonstrators today remained consistent with previous events, as participants waved signs that read: “For the people, not control the people,” “Faith over fear,” “My keiki, my choice,” “End the mask-erade,” “Peaceful non-compliance,” “We stand in solidarity with our government employees,” and “We do not consent to forced vaccinations.”
Speakers at the event shared messages saying, “Courage is more contagious than a virus of any name,” and that in coming out to the demonstration today, they “made the choice to be free.”
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green issued an appeal last night as he participated virtually in a press briefing on Maui, calling on those who have not gotten vaccinated yet, to consider doing so.
“I know you’ll still have to make a personal decision, and if you make that decision not to get vaccinated, I won’t criticize you. I may be frustrated as a doctor. I may be frustrated as a father or as a person who will see other people in the hospital,” he said, “but ultimately these decisions are your own and it’s the personal responsibility for us to make them, not just for ourselves, but for our loved ones.”
Maui’s current mask mandate calls for mask-wearing indoors, but the outdoor mandate was lifted on May 25, 2021. When lifting the outdoor mandate, government officials advised that when outdoors, people are still encouraged to mask up when in groups of 10 people or more. On Aug. 10, Governor David Ige also signed an executive order that set statewide limits for social gatherings, to no more than 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
Demonstrators have expressed sentiment that the events have been peaceful gatherings. A spokesperson with the Maui Police Department said there were no arrests made during today’s demonstration.
Government officials say some hospitals are facing an incredible surge where all Intensive Care Unit beds are filled. On Oʻahu, Hawaii News Now is reporting that Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu is overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, and has just declared a “disaster.”
There were 845 additional COVID-19 cases in Hawai‘i on Friday, including 97 on Maui and three on Molokaʻi, as well as four deaths (two on Maui and two on Oʻahu). Health care workers are caring for 35 COVID-19 positive patients in Maui County today, with six in intensive care and three on a ventilator. Thirty-one of the COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized are unvaccinated, according to Maui Health. New data from the Department of Health indicates that the Delta variant now accounts for 93% of all COVID-19 cases in Hawai‘i.