A group of about 50 people gathered outside Taos Town Hall, Thursday, Aug. 19, to protest recently re-imposed mask and social distancing mandates by the town and county governments.
Many of those gathered also held signs displaying anti-vaccine messages. As cars drove by, there were honks of support, as well as several shouting matches with drivers who opposed the protest. Sentiments ranged from general uneasiness about vaccines and the usefulness of masks, to claims to claims of a worldwide conspiracy.
One of the protest organizers, Melody Swan, said the group - who is aligned with the New Mexico Freedom Alliance and New Mexico Stands Up - was there to "protest the mandates, because they are against life."
Swan said she feels the mainstream media and the government are "lying to you." Adequate attention, she said, has not been given to the anti-mask and anti-vaccine protests going on around the globe, and she is upset by the "hundreds of thousands of doctors and scientists who have been censored."
She said the protest wasn't about politics. "We're not Trumpers ... we're apolitical. We are Americans and we are for our freedoms … and they're censoring us," she said. "We believe that we have our medical freedom, our freedom of speech and we want our voices to be heard."
Caroline Colonna said she was there to protest all forms of vaccine mandates. She said it was "stupidity to have mandates to vaccinate everyone." She opposed vaccines being mandatory while all of the side-effects are still unknown - she referenced recent reports of myocarditis and pericarditis in young men after receiving vaccinations.
A Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Colonna said she believes in a unique approach for each individual rather than a one-size-fits-all vaccination attempt.
"When you weigh the pros and the cons of the vaccine, then that should be a personal choice," she said. In fact, Colonna said that while she had received the vaccine, she did not recommend it for her children, but told them it was their choice. "I'm not an anti-vaxxer. I'm just an anti-vaccine for the masses."
Elizabeth Brownrigg, another organizer of the event, said she was also there to stand up for personal choice.
"If people want to wear a mask or people want to get a vaccine … that's your personal choice, but don't mandate stuff for the rest of us," she said. Brownrigg feels strongly that masks don't work, and said she hopes the event can show people there is more than "just the narrative that's been shoved on us … We want more people to feel that they can stand up and speak out."
Another attendee, Jill Inanna, carried a sign that read, "I was arrested for not wearing a mask, ask me about it." Inanna explained she was attempting to view old court records at the county courthouse on Monday, Aug. 16, when she was arrested for refusing to wear a mask (court documents support Inanna's account of the incident).
"I have a right to not wear a mask. My body is a sacred temple. It's against my religion to wear a mask, it harms me and I have the right to decide that between me and my creator," Inanna said she told the deputy who asked her to wear a mask before entering. After refusing to put a mask on and refusing to leave the building, Inanna was arrested and taken to the county jail, where she said she was treated unfairly.
Annette Gano said she feels the children are also being treated unfairly. Gano said she was there to stand up "for the children who have no voice." She said she pulled her daughter out of school after the mask policy changed, and said she considered mandatory masking in school to be "child abuse.
"They are damaging our children emotionally, physically, mentally - and our children are now turning into living in fear and being victims," said Gano.
Aside from standing up for personal freedoms, others said they were in attendance to draw awareness to larger issues at play, namely government conspiracies. One woman who did not give her name said the masks were part of a larger plan for world control.
"It's really about a New World Order takeover. We've been infiltrated by the Communist Chinese party in all of our institutions," she said.
She said she felt mandating vaccines for the U.S. military was part of a campaign to weaken and kill the armed forces from within, because she feels the vaccines are deadly. "It's been proven with the nanoparticles and there's all kinds of things," she said.
"We're being torn apart by forces that most people don't even understand," said Vincent James, another protestor.
Of the town and county's new mandates, he said: "They're using propaganda to manufacture consent, and that's against the law," James said, referencing the Nuremberg trials. "The veneer of whether they care so much about us is revealed as false when you can still go to McDonald's and get a Big Mac in 30 seconds."
"I don't consent. I will never wear a mask, ever," he said.