COVID Denial and Anti-Immigrant Rally in Kansas ⋆ Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights

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On August 28, 2021, Kris Kobach gave a speech to 150 people at a “Freedom Rally” hosted by the Kansas Patriots in Topeka. A digital flyer for the event, circulating on several Kansas-based COVID Denial Facebook groups, featured the rally as promoting “freedom from lockdowns, mask mandates and open borders.”

The crowd at the rally was all-white, consisting mostly of middle-aged to older couples and their families. While no identifiable militia were present, at least two organizers were visibly patrolling the crowd with handguns. Not a single mask was in sight, nor any kind of opposition organization present.

Marcie Green and April McCoy were the two main organizers of the event. McCoy introduced the speakers, delivering his own short speeches in between. Green stalked through the crowd with his sidearm on his hip, occasionally pausing to listen to those on the podium. Green, known as “Thecrazyladypatriot” on Facebook, has just over 3,000 followers online.

April McCoy (L) and Marcie Green (R)

Many speakers have said that COVID-19 is real, but have alleged that it is being used as a tool by liberals to control them – patriots, Christians, conservatives. In the view of the Kansas Patriots and its two organizers, American life is under threat from the Biden administration, mainstream media and, most importantly, immigrants.

Marcie Green’s Facebook page includes anti-immigrant posts, including one featuring implied immigrants coming to America. The lines on the meme point to the people pictured, saying “rapist” “murderer” “pimp child prostitute” and naming various types of illnesses. A large font in the photo reads “COMING TO AMERICA THROUGH DEMOCRATS’ OPEN BORDER POLICY”.

From the Facebook page of Marcie Green, aka Thecrazyladypatriot

At the Freedom Rally, one woman echoed those racist sentiments on the microphone saying, “Things are really bad with OPEN borders and people bringing in COVID.”

Kobach was the best-known speaker at the rally, having gained national attention for pushing anti-immigrant policies and voter ID laws in various states. Kobach is best known for writing Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56 — anti-immigrant bills that allowed law enforcement to stop and search black and brown people without pattern. This reputation makes him the most popular in the rally.

Throughout his political career, Kobach has had about as many defeats as he has won. Kobach served as Kansas’ secretary of state for eight years, initially elected in 2010 and re-elected again in 2014. During his second term as secretary of state, he ran for governor of Kansas in 2018. He won the primary elections and lost in the overall. In 2020, he ran in the Republican primary for an open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas and lost. None of these losses prevented him from gaining access to the White House through the Trump administration. Kobach’s losses look significant, but there are successes within them that can’t be ignored. Kobach is now running for Kansas attorney general in 2022.

Kobach spent the majority of his speech arguing that if elected attorney general, he would champion Kansas in opposing the Biden administration through the Supreme Court. He wants to ban all COVID-19 warrants, end federal and state warrants, and take away the right of companies to enforce mask or vaccine requirements. Kobach mentioned “the Supreme [Court]is much better now,” indicating that states may have the option of winning or overturning important court cases. The crowd could not contain itself.

A woman at the rally repeatedly interrupted Kobach’s speech in anger, appearing ready to take the microphone. Before Kobach could leave the stage, another woman stood up and demanded answers about voter fraud and voting machines in Kansas. Kobach replied: “When I was Secretary of State, [I] brought photo ID and I think we’re all happy with that.

The crowd cheered.

Kobach also bragged about his efforts to sue the Biden administration, on behalf of Border Patrol agents, for “breaking immigration laws.”

The crowd cheered, whistled and roared with enthusiasm.

Pastor Trevor Jacobs, a Republican state representative for Fort Scott District 4, gave a speech filled with Bible references and saying the government should be afraid of the people. He said the rights of unvaccinated people were being taken away, referring to private companies requiring masks for service or proof of vaccination for employment. In his words, “you’re only essential if you take the jab.”

Trevor Jacobs

A man shouted into the crowd “you’re just a slave if you take the hit!” — repeating a common claim in this movement that COVID-19 restrictions and vaccination mandates are in some way akin to slavery.

Continuing in this vein, Jacobs went on to compare these policies to the Holocaust. He told a story said to have started in 1940 about a Jewish man named “the crazy Yakka”. Yakka apparently tries to warn all the other Jews about the rise of the Nazis, but no one listens. Finally one morning Yakka wakes up and the Nazis have taken over and people still don’t believe him. Jacobs then connects to the crowd – “Ladies and gentlemen, if we don’t wake up, this will happen”, indicating that the experience of the unvaccinated is similar to being Jewish in the 1940s.

Such comparisons are common in these mobilizations, amounting to a form of anti-Semitism and a nascent conspiracy theory placing Nazi-like evil behind COVID-19 policies.

Another speech was given by Peggy Mast, a retired Republican representative from Emporia, Kansas, and director of Outreach for Understanding the Threat (UTT) — an anti-immigrant organization that focuses primarily on Muslims. His speech emphasized the preservation of America as a Christian nation and its protection against non-Western ideals such as Communism or Islam. Although Mast thinks COVID-19 is real, admitting she once had it, she still spreads damaging misinformation about harmful vaccines and masks. And she claimed that ivermectin is effective in treating COVID-19, although that’s not true.

Peggy Mast speaks at the “Freedom Rally”

Peggy Mast and her supporters set up a table to understand the threat (UTT). At this table, people could buy educational literature and DVDs on immigration or Sharia, including books on the dangers of Islam for Western women and Christians. A small free booklet sat in the center of the table – its title – “Immigration Fraud Lies That Kill” published by The Social Contract – an old publication that combined the writings of nativists and white nationalists.

Ultimately, this “Freedom Rally” demonstrated that participants do not believe the global pandemic is a threat they must face. Rather than people being unlucky or disenfranchised by the pandemic, this is a political movement determined to wield power.

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