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Rally opposing vaccine mandates planned on first day of North Dakota Legislature's special session

The rally, organized by the four Minot-area GOP district chairs, will center on support for the special session bill drafts that aim to curb vaccine mandates.

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Supporters of a proposed ban on mask mandates gather outside the North Dakota Capitol on Monday, April 5, 2021. (Michelle Griffith / Forum News Service)

BISMARCK — Hoping to send a message that reverberates among lawmakers on the first day of the North Dakota Legislature's special session, organizers of a "We The People" rally are planning for thousands to gather at the Capitol on Monday, Nov. 8.

The rally, organized by the four Minot-area GOP district chairs, will center on support for the special session bill drafts that aim to curb vaccine mandates in the state.

"The rally is the first step in trying to make a statement from we the people to our representatives that they've been elected to serve and secure our liberties," said Republican District 5 chair Travis Zablotney.

The demonstration will primarily focus on opposition to vaccine mandates, but other topics that are addressed in the special session bill drafts will likely also be discussed.

Plans for the rally are aimed at accommodating hundreds of people. Zablotney said they have ordered 3,000 T-shirts to hand out to attendees, plan to have their own security guards present and rent about 40 porta-potties for the rally. There will also be food trucks, music and prerecorded messages from national conservative pundits Charlie Kirk and Steve Deace. North Dakotans from Tioga and Minot also plan to take buses to Bismarck on the day of the rally.

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The rally will be hosted by Chris Berg, who recently resigned from Valley News Live for refusing to comply with the company's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The rally's organizers are concerned that people are either quitting or losing their jobs over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

"When you affect somebody's livelihood, their family and their income, that's quite serious," said Jared Hendrix, Republican District 38 chair and one of the rally's organizers. "These things are happening."

Hendrix said the rally is a chance for people across the political spectrum to gather and voice their concern about government overreach, adding that the rally is nonpartisan.

North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Tim Coughlin, who heads security at the Capitol, declined to comment about what kind of security will be present at the rally, adding that that kind of information is not released to the media. However, he said security is always present on the Capitol grounds.

The North Dakota Office of Management and Budget requires demonstrators to submit an online application in order to gather on the Capitol grounds. The application for the "We The People" rally was submitted by a city councilman from Shelby, Ohio, Nathan Martin, who's also a member of the organization America Restored . The group aims to get the U.S. "restored to our founder’s original intent," according to its website.

Martin was subpoenaed by the U.S. House of Representatives Jan. 6 committee for his alleged affiliation with "Stop the Steal," a group linked to rallies near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the day a mob stormed the Capitol building in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Martin has said he was on the Capitol grounds that day but didn't enter the building.

The organizers of the Bismarck rally say Martin was only involved in the one step of submitting an application for the Nov. 8 event and the rest has been planned by people on the ground in North Dakota. It will be a peaceful gathering to show North Dakota lawmakers "that we will not comply," according to the rally's website.

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"It's a rally to let our legislators know that the people really want them to step it up for liberty," said Rep. Jeff Hoverson, R-Minot, who helped organize the rally.

The event is scheduled to begin at noon on Monday, and a reception at the Radisson Hotel in Bismarck is planned for that evening.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.

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