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PHOTOS: Crowd rallies against masks and vax, chants 'Let's go, Brandon'

A crowd of more than 200 people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Park on North Grove Street then marched through downtown Saturday in a rally against Covid-19 mask and vaccination mandates and a variety of other right-leaning grievances.

In a virulent mix of scripture, anti-Biden rhetoric and medical claims that public health authorities have refuted, speakers atop  a steep bank off Grove Street called on marchers to resist government tyranny, armor themselves against the devil’s schemes and help the Republican Party seize power in the 2022 elections.

Organized  by We the People WNC, the rally and march tapped into the emotional and vocal faction of area residents who have filled social media with their views and urged the Henderson County Board of Commissioners and School Board to drop mask orders in schools and join them in condemning vaccination campaigns, Big Pharma and, since January, the Biden administration.

Organizer Beth Campbell called on the crowd to resist mandates public health authorities have recommended in schools and other public settings.

“We have to do our part,” she said. “We have to say no. We have to hold those accountable in our local officials, our local board members, our state representatives and our country. … We have to continue to stand together against tyranny and an oppressive government.”

The CDC, FDA and other public health agencies say the Covid-19 shots approved by the FDA are safe and effective.

Michelle Woodhouse, chair of the GOP’s 11th Congressional District Committee, exhorted the crowd to support Republican candidates next year.

“Your patriotism is overwhelming, your love for this country is overwhelming and we are iron shepherding iron,” she said. “Look at the faces of the children as you walk today and remember everything you do is to make sure they have a country after the Democrats are done with it. Twenty-twenty-two — we will take back the House, we will take back the Senate, we will get a veto-proof supermajority in Raleigh, we will take over the Supreme Court in North Carolina and we will send Madison Cawthorn back to Washington, D.C., and in 2024, Mark Robinson will be the next governor.”

Also appearing was Don Hendrix, a Revolutionary War re-enactor and father of Ryan Hendrix, the Henderson County sheriff’s deputy who was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 10, 2020. Dressed as a Revolutionary War patriot, Hendrix read part of the Declaration of Independence and recited excerpts from Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech.

Quoting Ephesians 6:11 — “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” — D. J. Harrington warned of a war beyond politics.

“We are in a battle,” said Harrington, a candidate for Hendersonville mayor. “But we’re not just in a battle with certain people. We’re in a spiritual battle like none other. Every morning, Christians, hear me, we need to put on our armor of God. We have to protect ourselves and our children. Please, if you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say have a relationship with Jesus Christ, come see me.”

Selah Grace sang the spiritual “See a victory.”

‘Let’s go Brandon’

The rally and march attracted people of all ages united by a multitude of grievances, not all of them related to masks and Covid shots. Wearing a T-shirt that said “A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge,” one speaker, Jonathan Cross, listed what he described as miscarriages of justice in the local court system.

Marchers wore T-shirts and carried printed or hand-lettered signs with messages that ranged widely: “Unmask Our Kids,”  “Stop the Insanity of Biological Men Competing in Womens/Girls Sports,” “No Jabs 4 Jobs,” “Honk for Medical Freedom,” “My Body, My Choice,” “United Noncompliance” “God, Guns, Guts Made America Free. Let’s Keep It That Way.”

Often grinning broadly, marchers chanted "Let's go Brandon" as they made their way from the Grove Street Courthouse to the Historic Courthouse via King Street, First Avenue, Church Street, Fifth Avenue and Main Street. The provenance of the phrase comes from a NASCAR race interview with driver Brandon Brown after his win in an Xfinity series race at Talladega Superspeedway. As fans in the background chanted "f--- Joe Biden," a sportscaster — either covering for the obscenity or mishearing the words — told the driver that the crowd was cheering, "Let's go Brandon."

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The CDC, FDA, World Health Organization and research institutes have described the vaccines approved by the FDA as safe and effective. In August, citing a spike in Delta variant Covid-19, the Henderson County Board of Health issued an appeal urging people to wear a face covering and get the shot. “First, if you have not been vaccinated, please consider doing so,” the board said. “It is the most effective strategy to protect yourself and others. … Second, please wear a face covering, whether you are vaccinated or not, if you are not able to physically distance from others and particularly when indoors or around those that have high-risk health conditions. The issue of masking has been particularly challenging due to frequent changes with CDC recommendations. However, our best evidence indicates that wearing a mask protects both the individual wearing it and the people around them.”