Feb 06, 2022

Rally Urges Texas Republicans to Ban Vaccine Mandates, Critical Race Theory

Reporting Texas

Elizabeth Nen, 7, holds a placard at the Save Texas Peaceful Rally and Prayer at the Texas Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. Nen was in attendance with her mother. Eniola Longe / Reporting Texas

Saying that Republican leaders failed to complete their conservative agenda, hundreds rallied at the Texas Capitol on Saturday to call for another special session of the Legislature.

With wind blowing, crowd chanting and signs raised, the Save Texas Peaceful Rally and Prayer featured speakers decrying vaccine mandates and the way race and sex are taught in schools.

“We do not co-parent with the government,” read one sign in the crowd. Others said, “End medical tyranny,” “Freedom not force” and “Mandate personal liberty.”

“I’m here because my mom didn’t want me to be vaccinated,” said 7-year old Elizabeth Nen, who attended with her mother. She held a sign saying, “No forced vaccine.”

Jennifer Bridges, who is now employed at Breathe MD, said she lost her job at a hospital for speaking up against the hospital’s handling of COVID-19. Along with her new employer, Houston doctor Mary Talley Bowden, Bridges said she administers ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients. Both are unproven treatments that have been embraced by former President Donal Trump and some anti-vaxxers.

“Take my license. I’m not shutting up,” Bridges said.

Of the three Republican gubernatorial primary candidates invited to the rally, only Allen West attended. Education was a major focus for West and others at the rally.

“I think what should be happening in our schools is that we are educating kids and not indoctrinating our kids,” West said.

Speakers decried what they labeled critical race theory and sexual grooming in schools, citing sex-education programs and raising questions about books in school libraries.

“Our kids should not be taught to hate themselves,” said Kelly Burke, an activist, pastor and speaker from Arlington.

“I believe that children should learn world history, as it relates to what every people, tribe and nation went through,” Burke said in an interview. “And that’s slavery throughout the whole world.”

Tim Westley, historian of the Republican Party of Texas and candidate for land commissioner, called for teaching “history without teaching hate.” 

Despite a Republican majority in the Legislature and having both a Republican governor and lieutenant governor, rally attendees wondered why their full conservative agenda failed to pass last year.

“If a special session is not called, we’re going to remove Abbott, as well as Dan Patrick from office, period,” said rally organizer Brandon Burkhart of This Is Texas Freedom Force, which rose to prominence in opposing plans to move the Alamo Cenotaph in San Antonio.

Nationally, the Texas Legislature is deemed to be among the most conservative, but still some Texans believe it is not conservative enough.

“It’s not uncommon to see something like this going on in Texas, it’s a very religious state,” Eric McDaniel, an associate professor of government at the University of Texas, said in an interview this week. “Texans make up a considerable amount of the individuals in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

McDaniel doubts the group could mount enough pressure on Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session before the Legislature is set to return in 2023. “I think what’s going on is that they found success the last time the Legislature met, and now they want more, because there were a bunch of things left off the agenda.” 

In the third special legislative session called by Abbott in 2021, three of Abbott’s five agenda items passed; plans creating new political maps, restricting transgender student athletes and distributing federal COVID-19 relief funds. Items prohibiting vaccine mandates for businesses and stiffening election fraud penalties were not passed.

“We’re actually asking God for help in this because we do need a miracle, sadly,” said rally organizer Rosalie Escobedo, a precinct chair in North Euless. “To push what we like to call ‘RINOs, Republicans In Name Only’ to actually show up and do the thing that they said they’ll do.”

“As conservatives and as Christians and as patriots and as constitutionalists. We have to be able to organize people, educate them and send them out,” Burke said. “We must raise up grassroots politicians who would beat the system. I believe that’s what this rally would do.”

The Save Texas Peaceful Rally and Prayer featured speakers and prayers in front of the Texas Capitol on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. Eniola Longe / Reporting Texas