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A handful of people working for the city of Portland or Multnomah County gathered for a downtown rally on Saturday.

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Protesters gathered outside the city's municipal office building in downtown Portland to decry vaccine mandates on Saturday. Oct. 9.A handful of city of Portland and Multnomah County employees protested mandates requiring most government workers to get the shot protecting against the novel coronavirus Saturday, Oct. 9.

Less than two dozen people gathered outside the city's municipal office tower, known as the Portland Building, 120 S.W. 5th Ave., during the daylight protest.

"Our bodies don't belong to policy or government," said Rene Cooper, a protester who said she had been fired by the city last month from her job running a preschool program at a Portland Parks & Rec community center.

"I was unwilling to cover my face or cover three-year-olds' faces in a classroom in order to do my job," said Cooper.

The Oregon Health Authority has implored the public to get inoculated against COVID-19, saying it is the best way to create herd immunity and stop the spread of the virus. The state agency says snug, multi-layered masks are an effective barrier against potentially infected droplets spread by breathing.

"The best protection we have against getting COVID-19 is to get vaccinated," the agency said in a statement Oct. 8. "For added protection we should wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor settings to shield ourselves and those around us."

Both Portland and Multnomah County have required most employees to get vaccinated, seek a medical or religious exemption or lose their job. Police officers are exempt from the policy, however.

Officials with the local governments didn't immediately respond when asked to provide tallies of worker vaccinations. Some 77% of the city's 6,500 vaccine-eligible workers had gotten the jab, with another 5% in the process of doing so, the Oregonian reported in late September.

At the rally, protesters held slogans including "Mandates have no place in a free country," and "Lefties for medical freedom."

One woman, who declined to be identified, said she had worked at a downtown COVID shelter for Multnomah County, but didn't want to take the shot because she had already gotten the virus and had herd immunity. The woman said the county had granted her a medical exemption.

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - A Multnomah County employee, left and a city of Portland worker declined to give their names during a protest on Saturday. "This is America, and we should have the freedom to choose what we put into our body," she said. "Just like 'my body, my choice' when it comes to abortion."

Another woman, who also declined to give her name but indicated she worked for the city, said she was distrustful of potential vaccine side effects and was following God's will.

According to the OHA, more than 2.5 million Oregonians have completed their vaccine treatment. The state has recorded nearly 4,000 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, and nearly 350,000 cases.


Zane Sparling
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