Scores gather for Covid-19 vaccination protest rally
Scores of people today took part in a rally against Government’s promotion of Covid-19 vaccinations.
Just under 200 cars and about 20 bikes drove around the island, tooting their horns and waving at passers-by.
At one stage cars came to a standstill on Kindley Field Road, with a traffic jam stretching past the Swing Bridge as other vehicles got caught up in the rally.
Dubbed the ’Bermuda Freedom Car/Bike Rally’, protesters were asked to assemble on Front Street before driving around the island.
Vehicles were adorned with signs such as “My Body Belongs to God”, “Don’t Segregate Us” and “All Jobs Are Essential, Reopen”.
One sign stated: “Revoke Emergency Powers”.
A document being shared at the scene of the protest said: “We, as citizens of Bermuda and members of the Bermuda Freedom Alliance, hereby assert our inalienable rights of freedoms of speech and inform you of our concerns and our demands.”
This evening David Burt, the Premier, said people had a right to speak their views – even as he backed the Government’s latest round of restrictions.
But he said: “This is not a time for individual agendas but a time for the entire community to work together and unite to do what is necessary to move Bermuda beyond this pandemic.”
Mark Roberts, an organiser, said the aim was to “send a message to the Government that we’ve had enough of these restrictions”.
He added: “We’re law abiding citizens who want to have our own freedom of choice. I’m not against vaccination, but I believe people should be able to make their own informed decision. That’s not what’s going on here.”
One man at the rally said the event was staged to ensure that “voices get heard”. “We just want honest, true dialogue,” he said.
A woman with a banner showing rules for natural health, such as exercise and nutrition, said not everyone wanted to be vaccinated.
She said she had been particularly motivated to protest by the Government’s plans next month to put unvaccinated travellers under a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Counter-protester, Carla Smith, told Bernews she had lost a “close family member” to the illness last week.
“Before it hit home, I didn’t feel it,” she said. “Now I feel it.”
Ms Smith said she had come out for “family members who have lost people” and that people should “think about that before they do this protest”.
Wearing a mask and holding a placard of her own, Ms Smith called for people to use prayer instead of protesting and said: “If you abide by the rules, you will be OK.”
Ms Smith added: “If you can do the Premier’s job, apply for it. Then see how it works out with you being Premier.
“If you want to change something, go apply for the job.”
Another man said the Government had put undue emphasis on “doom and gloom instead of healthy living”.
He added: “The Government is using the rationale of all these restrictions to control us financially. Questions should be asked about Government’s real agenda.
“They are putting a lot of emphasis on deaths and the downside of Covid rather than presenting the data for recovery.”
The protest comes on the heels of a record month for deaths in Bermuda from the coronavirus.
But he said the public needed to be told “how many of them were people on their way out anyway”.
“Any death is sad, but what about the success rate?
“This is about encouraging people to take personal responsibility for their own health.”
Earlier, police had said they were aware of plans for the protest and had contacted the organisers. Police said officers would monitor the demonstration to ensure traffic was not disrupted and that Covid-19 safety regulations were observed.
Officers at the scene told attendees to put on masks and warned that any mixing of households was prohibited.
Mr Burt responded to the rally saying: “We live in a democratic society, which entitles all Bermudians the right to have our voices heard.
“Sadly, there are less collective voices in Bermuda due to persons who have not survived Covid-19 with 15 residents passing away in April.
“The restrictions contained in Public Health Regulations have been very effective in reducing local transmission of the virus.
“However there remains a risk of new imported variants setting back our collective progress.”
Mr Burt said supervised quarantine has proved “very effective in many countries that have eliminated local transmission”, and returned to holding large events without masks.
He added: “The Government has laid out a plan for Bermuda to return to normal, and we’re confident that the overwhelming majority of Bermudians support the difficult decisions that must be taken for our schools and businesses to re-open safely once and for all.”