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More than 400 Iowans gathered at UnityPoint Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines on Thursday to protest the company’s decision to mandate COVID vaccinations for its employees.

It was an impressive showing for a middle-of-the-day rally during the workweek. And it shows that people are interested in maintaining their right to bodily autonomy and freedom of choice when it comes to having the COVID vaccine injected into their bodies.

One of the rallygoers said she was there for freedom of choice.

“I don’t think that we should be mandated to do this,” she said. “I hope (the crowd) gets bigger and bigger every time we do this.”

UnityPoint employees didn’t want to talk on camera, but said their signs spoke for themselves:

“Medical freedom.”

“If patients are the priority, why are hospitals firing staff?”

“Fire me! Hire travel staff. $104/hour. Priorities.”

Kari, who organized the rally, said ultimately it’s about choice and allowing individuals to make their individual decisions. She said there will be a rally at MercyOne on Aug. 27.

“Then we’re going to the Capitol,” she said. “We’re not stopping.”

As soon as the news came out that UnityPoint would mandate the vaccine, she said she started planning the event.

“This is our first protest,” she said. “This is all because I was just sitting at home one night with my husband and I was like, ‘no, we’re not doing this.’ And I made the Facebook group and now there’s this. This makes me so happy. When you’re for medical freedom and everything that we are people tend to make you feel guilty and you want people to die and you’re an anti-vaxxer. But wanting medical freedom and bodily autonomy is not wrong and I refuse to make us feel like it’s wrong. To know that we have all of these people just on the first protest behind me — it’s awesome.”

Connie told us it is important to remember this mandate doesn’t just impact nurses and doctors.

“A lot of people probably don’t understand this, maybe they do, maybe they don’t,” she said. “But there’s a lot of focus on nurses and physicians, which there should be, but I work from home — have for four years, and this is being mandated on myself as well. I don’t think a lot of people realize that when they hear healthcare workers, they think of people that are right there with the hospitals, but it’s beyond that. This mandate is affecting people who don’t even come in contact with patients at all. We still don’t have a choice either.”

She said she and her coworkers are feeling “immense pressure.”

Another individual said she was surprised how many people showed up and they will continue rotating locations.

“I know we have a lot of support here on Facebook and here in the community,” she said.

The message she hopes the administration receives is if they mandate the vaccines, they will lose their health.

“(They) think they are hurt now for help, they will have no help. There will be people dying that could be saved other than COVID.”

She said hospitals are full because they’re short-staffed, not just die to COVID.

“I hope they see all of us — most of us work in the hospital or healthcare clinic,” she added. “There’s a reason we don’t want (the vaccine). There’s just not enough information on what is happening once people get the vaccine. Your body, your choice.

“It’s taken a toll on some of us. We’ve come in here, even before COVID, understaffed, still working during COVID, working double hours to treat COVID patients,” she said. “We were the heroes then, but now they’re not giving us a choice. It was our choice if we wanted to work overtime and help, but now it’s either you get the vaccine or you’re fired. It’s just not fire. We worked during COVID and we hope to be here still post-COVID.”

You can find video of the protest here. And for a quick look at just how many folks were there, see below: