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Thousands turn out for 'medical freedom' rally against vaccine mandates

Multiple state GOP lawmakers addressed the crowds.

The State Capitol grounds in St. Paul were busy this weekend, with a Line 3 protest giving way to a large-scale demonstration against vaccine mandates.

The so-called medical freedom rally started at 7am just outside the State Fair, with protesters marching all the way to the capitol, per an announcement from state Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal).

Marchers converged at the capitol grounds around noon to hear Munson and other lawmakers, including Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), speak out against vaccination mandates.

According to the Star Tribune, some 2,000 protesters heard speeches from "roughly a half-dozen Republican legislators and two candidates for governor," all of whom voiced opposition to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Per MPR reporter Tim Nelson, Franson told the crowd to resist COVID vaccines and mandates, calling them "the predicates to authoritarianism."

In a followup Facebook post, Franson urged her followers to lobby state lawmakers, promising that "legislation" — presumably aimed at blocking such mandates — "will be offered (again) for the upcoming session."

"Today was a great start at sending the message that your body does not belong to big government, big Pharma, big tech and big business," she wrote.

The rally came close on the heels of a days-long protest against Enbridge Energy's Line 3 oil pipeline project, which ended Friday when state troopers moved in and made multiple arrests on the capitol grounds.

The lack of arrests at the medical freedom rally has come under criticism on social media, with some users pointing out that Line 3 protesters — who demonstrated outside the governor's mansion on Saturday — were met with "crowd suppression" while the anti-vaccine protesters received little, if any, pressure from police:

The event was not a one-off; there have been a number of medical freedom rallies around the state in recent days, including one in Brainerd, another in Little Falls and still another in St. Cloud

And it's not limited to Minnesota, either. Such rallies are being staged around the country as the debate over COVID restrictions intensifies amid growing Delta variant infections. 

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