Flanked by a handful of first-responders who face losing their jobs because of COVID-19 vaccine mandates imposed by liberal communities, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed to fight forced jabs, whether imposed locally or by the Biden administration.
During an appearance in Archer, the Republican governor said he would protect jobs, and especially those of first-responders who have been “serving faithfully” throughout the pandemic, from mandated vaccines.
“You don’t just cast aside people … over this issue, over what’s basically a personal choice on their individual health,” said DeSantis. “To just throw them out like they’re chopped liver, that is just fundamentally wrong.”
The governor appeared in Alachua County to discuss employees who face termination because of a city-imposed vaccine mandate. More than 200 city employees have sued the city in response, a lawsuit that the state supports, according to Attorney General Ashley Moody, who attended the press conference with DeSantis.
DeSantis noted that a state law passed this year banned vaccine mandates and passports, and that applied to government agencies as well. Governments that violate the statute by making vaccination a condition of employment face a $5,000 fine for each occurrence.
DeSantis pointed out that the vaccines have always been “available for all, but mandatory for none.” That drew raucous applause from the hundreds gathered for his comments, a crowd infused with Gainesville city firefighters and those from other departments who lent their support.
The audience also included members sporting T-shirts saying “DeSantis 2024,” the “Back the Blue” flag, and the Gadsden flag, with its historic slogan, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Others donned baseball caps that read “America First,” and “Joe Biden Sucks.”
DeSantis argued that the Biden administration and local officials who agree with its push for mandates have threatened the livelihoods and pensions of thousands of people, while also wholly disregarding the strength of natural immunity, in promoting a “very intrusive and, I think, illegal policy.”
The workers who joined DeSantis in speaking out against the mandates maintained that they were not anti-vaccine, but anti-mandate.
One of them was Gainesville city employee Christine Damm, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and mother of four. “My body, my choice, my business,” she explained. “We just want to show up and do our jobs, to make medical decisions without our employer dictating to us what to do. … I will not comply.”
Gainesville Fire Rescue Lt. Jonathan Cicio, a 16-year veteran of the department, who is a father of five children as well as five foster children, said he fully expects to lose his job because he won’t get the shot.
Cicio, a technical rescue expert who responded to the condo collapse in Surfside, noted that first-responders answered calls for help throughout the pandemic, and now reject the idea that others know better for their safety.
“Now, we’re being told that we don’t know what’s right for us and that we cannot make our own health decisions,” said Cicio, noting that many firefighters have contracted COVID and recovered, and have natural immunity.
“We are not anti-vaccine. We are anti-mandate,” said Cicio. “We feel betrayed and used. While we were heroes and selfless not long ago, now we’re selfish.”
“There’s an absurd amount of virtue-signaling going on,” Cicio added. “There is science and studies that are either ignored or twisted to fit their agenda. Those who stand up and cry, ‘My body, my choice,’ where are they at now. Friends, do not be fooled into thinking you’re crazy or extreme for wanting to make your own health choices.”
After Cicio spoke, DeSantis then slammed the mandate advocates for failing to acknowledge immunity from past infection.
“If you were really following science, you would acknowledge this natural immunity, and instead they ignore it and force somebody who already has protection to take a medical treatment they may not like. It’s really about using government power and control to mandate, much more than underlying medical issues. … If you do not acknowledge that, you are not following the science,” the governor said.
On President Joe Biden’s proposed mandate, DeSantis said, “This is not constitutional.” The governor rhetorically asked about what the “science” says when Biden plans to exempt the U.S. Postal Service and members of Congress and their staffs – yet be willing to fire hospital nurses who have been exposed the entire time, at the same moment the healthcare industry faces a nursing shortage.
“This is all political. It’s about using government. And it’s wrong,” said DeSantis.
“We are fighting back against the Biden mandate as well. Suffice to say, nobody should lose their job over this issue. … These mandates are overreaches, and they can be very destructive for a lot of really, really good people.”
Moody then provided an overview of how the state would do that.
“This is about how much power do our government officials have when we have never given them that power,” Moody said.
She called the idea of firing people if they don’t take the vaccine “unlawful,” and added that it was “unconscionable” to put first-responders jobs on the line when they’ve been asked to respond throughout the pandemic.
“This will directly affect the safety of Florida communities,” said Moody. That’s why, she added, her office was assisting Gainesville city workers who “bravely” sued to keep their jobs for making their own health decisions.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who also doubles as the state fire marshal, reminded the crowd that the same people who advocate for this mandate imposed Obamacare on America.
“I’ve got my vaccine, but I ain’t gonna support no damn mandate,” Patronis said. “Do we think that a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., know what’s better for us than our own doctors? … They were dead wrong last time and they’re dead wrong this time.”
In closing, DeSantis noted, “To threaten to take away somebody’s job over this , you’re not respecting the people who are working hard to keep us safe.”
“I think that the message is very clear,” said DeSantis, noting that Biden and his administration had hypocritically evolved on vaccine mandates over the past few months.
“This is not something that should be coerced onto people, that it should be something they have access to, and make that decision for themselves,” the governor said, adding that the Biden mandate reveals him as “dismissive,” as well as his “arrogance” and how “out of touch” he is.
“What they’re doing is harmful. … They are causing a lot of people to dig in their heels,” he added. “Casting people aside over this issue is fundamentally wrong. … The president doesn’t just get to boss people around.”
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