JOHNSTOWN — Best known for her work as a gun rights advocate, Lesley Hollywood, founder of Rally for Our Rights, is turning her attention momentarily to another freedom she believes is at risk — the right to medical autonomy and freedom from government intrusion.
“Medical mandates are madness,” Hollywood said. “We must stand together to reject the madness and put the choice back in the hands of the people.”
Hollywood is organizing a rally to support those who must comply by Dec. 8 with President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for all federal workers, or any company with federal contracts.
Hollywood is no stranger to organizing rallies. In fact, she’s perfected them, staging dozens over the years in communities across Colorado in support of gun rights. Her rallies have become well known, usually drawing hundreds of supporters.
She’s hoping the same will be true Saturday when community members come together with federal employees and others to fight against what she calls the worst government overreach in decades.
“Millions of workers in every industry are being forced by the government to be vaccinated or lose their jobs,” Hollywood said. “Many work for private employers who have federal government contracts, and these workers have no other options, even if they work remotely or alone. OSHA has issued an emergency rule requiring employers with 100 or more employees to enforce vaccine mandates or face steep fines. Pregnant women are being fired and left without healthcare coverage because they would rather wait until after their baby is born to be vaccinated.”
Take the vaccine or lose your job
One such person, Savant Suykerbuyk, prepared for a new job weeks ago when the news was first released. Suykerbuyk and his wife work for an aerospace company with federal contracts.
“I feel a great sense of tragedy for many of my coworkers,” Suykerbuyk said. “For myself, when I heard about the mandate being passed, the first thing I did was polish my resume and started looking elsewhere, just in case things go south.”
Suykerbuyk said his number one intention was to retire from his current employer, but when his wife was forced to chose between a vaccine and the healthy birth of their child, there was no question which he would take.
Suykerbuyk’s wife, who is 7 months pregnant, works for the same company, which has made no concessions for her pregnancy, despite the fact both Suykerbuyk and his wife have already contracted and recovered from the illness.
“She’s been somewhat open minded about the vaccine itself,” Suykerbuyk said about his wife. “Maybe this would be a good idea for (her) at some point. But it feels very frightening to possibly risk the baby. We feel the dangers of a second case of COVID to our pregnancy is just non-existent. But the dangers of getting a vaccine, it feels like an unknown quantity. We don’t know what the risks or benefits are.”
Suykerbuyk said their company has been very rigid about it.
“They don’t care,” he said “It doesn’t factor. It makes no difference on the mandate. Every single person must comply, no ifs, ands, or buts.”
And no doctor will consider a pregnancy a medical exemption, he said.
“No one is willing to touch it,” he said. “All they are willing to do is read off of a sheet that says vaccines are 100 percent safe and COVID is 100 percent dangerous, and if we don’t get the vaccine now, all three of us are going to die or the baby is going to grow up without parents.”
‘Nothing will force for me to get the vaccine’
Another woman, who Complete Colorado agreed not to identify out of fear of retaliation, agreed with Suykerbuyk, adding her employer — who also has federal contracts — has made her feel like 7 years of exemplary service means nothing.
“My work is going well. My numbers are up, they are like ‘thank you, thank you, thank you for all this, but get vaccinated or you’re out,’” she said. “Just makes me mad that there is no exception for natural immunity, it’s just black and white.”
She said when she last told her managers she was not complying, that she assumed Dec. 1 was her last day, they just said “oh well.”
“There is nothing that is going to force me to get the vaccine,” she said. “I don’t take medical procedures lightly. I am very self-aware. I don’t even take headache medicine; I go to the root cause of something. If I have a headache maybe it’s ‘oh, I’ve not drank enough water.”
She said although they’ve backed her into a corner, she is not going to give into their demands, and is currently looking for a new job.
“It’s going to be a tough couple of months, especially over Christmas,” she said. “But I have to do what I have to do.”
Suykerbuyk said what frustrates him the most is the nature of the terminations are overly hostile.
“It’s not that you won’t be able to work here,” he said. “It’s termination for cause. You are fired, and that day you lose your health insurance, and you are ineligible for unemployment benefits.”
He said health insurance was one of top reasons immediately secured a new job rather than rely on his savings.
“What can I do?” Suykerbuyk said. “I have mortgage to pay and a baby on the way. But many of my coworkers not so lucky, they are backed into a corner, being told ‘you either have to do this, or all this is taken away and you’re on the street.”
He called the mandate cowardly on the part of the federal government.
“This is as close as you can get to a gun to your head without actually doing it,” he said. “They don’t have the resources or the courage to try to enforce it themselves, instead they are forcing companies … into their enforcement agency to uphold these unconstitutional laws.”
The rally will be from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday along Thornton Parkway, just off Interstate 25 in the north metro Denver city of Thornton. Parking will be available on the northeast side of the parkway in the parking lots by city hall and the courthouse.
Hollywood encourages people to line the streets in the very high visibility area with people, signs and flags but reminds people to keep the message on point and focused on the vaccine mandates.
“Bodily autonomy is being trampled and privacy is being breached — all at the hands of the government,” Hollywood said. “This rally is not against vaccines; it is against force. It is in support of choice. One size does not fit all.”
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