WASHINGTON, D.C.—A hodgepodge of Trumpworld superfans, disillusioned Democrats, far-right extremists, self-identifying independents, and street preachers assembled Sunday morning to rally against equal parts COVID-19 vaccines and mandates.
The event started at the Washington Monument, with attendees making the trek to Lincoln Memorial to hear from many anti-vax superstars, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., controversial virologist Dr. Robert Malone, and Fox Nation’s Lara Logan, who has been ghosted by her employer.
Ahead of the march to the Lincoln Memorial, attendees gathered to speak with each other and hold sporadic demonstrations, including dancing and chanting to anti-vax rap songs.
Far-right fanatics were out in full force, from the extremist members of the hate group Proud Boy to rank-and-file supporters who consume everything that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones utters.
John Kopel, a staunch advocate against COVID-19 vaccines and an InfoWars loyalist, told The Daily Beast ahead of the rally he is a “fan of Alex Jones.” Carrying a sign that promoted Jones’ media entity and claimed “[Dr. Anthony] Fauci is a mass murderer,” Kopel said that he remains upset with former President Trump’s initial push of what he calls the “bio-weapon.” The rally-goer added that Trump’s endorsement of the vaccine is a “serious issue.” “We are for medical freedom,” he continued before suggesting that Trump might have been “corrupted.”
But it wasn’t only right-wingers in attendance, as many self-identifying Democrats and others also showed up to the event.
Clare Tobin, a lifelong Democratic voter from Chicago, voiced her frustrations with politicians pushing mandates and vaccines. “I don’t trust the vaccine,” she said. “You can’t even trust the Democrats, either. They all have the same message. They all had the same agenda.”
Then there was the straight-up bizarre, which included one attendee dressing up as Uncle Sam with a vaccine going through his top hat.
Elliot Crown, from New York, who dressed in garb resembling Uncle Sam, told The Daily Beast he was there to protest Americans’ “rights being curtailed,” citing the pandemic as a “fraud.” “They [both Democrats and Republicans] are taking orders, it is a global thing. They all use the same phrase ‘Build Back Better.’”
Along the march route, attendees were also enticed to buy Trump paraphernalia, given religious books, and encouraged to take a free nasal spray that promises to cure anyone of the coronavirus if they are infected. Xlear CEO Nathan Jones, whose company sells the spray and has been sued by the FTC, was in attendance and baselessly claimed to The Daily Beast that his nasal solution “works” on COVID-19, adding that “just using saltwater [will] stop the spread of COVID-19 in the lungs.”
While there was little counter-programming in the form of pro-COVID-19 vaccine advocates in attendance Sunday, a group of extremist preachers attempted to shout over the speakers with megaphones during the affair. Calling Trump supporters “whores” and other vulgarities quickly turned marchers against them.
One Trump supporter to voice opposition to what they were yelling was rally-goer Justin Pearson. “They are not speaking the truth,” Pearson told The Daily Beast after confronting the preachers, who were also yelling for women to “get back into the kitchen.” “They are not being biblical. They are judging everyone,” he continued before declaring the preachers were acting in a divisive manner. “They are definitely false prophets.”
During the event, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made a bonkers Holocaust analogy, a theme from the day’s activists as attendees brought comparable messaging along with them on signs. “Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could hide in the attic like Anne Frank did,” he told the crowd.
While organizers planned for 20,000 people to show up, perhaps only half that number showed up for the event, which had been hyped up for weeks on Steve Bannon’s right-wing War Room pandemic podcast. (The U.S. Park Police didn’t immediately return The Daily Beast’s request for comment.)
But not all in attendance were convinced the rally was for good. One attendee, who said his name was Jason, told The Daily Beast the event might be a psy-op due to the loud rap music being blared through speakers, which prohibited attendees from “talking to each other.”
“It’s a disaster. No one can talk to each other. You realize this?” he said. “There are always operations!”