• Melissa Smith

A First-hand Account of the November 2021 Vaccine Mandate Protest Rally in Great Falls

By Melissa Smith

On Sunday, November 28, 2021, there were simultaneous rallies in ten Montana cities, organized by the Montana Mises (sic) Caucus, a Libertarian organization protesting the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. I attended the Great Falls rally.

By 2:00 pm Sunday, about 30 people had lined up on 10th Avenue South in Great Falls, between 9th and 13th Streets. Most held homemade signs opposing the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.

I approached individual protesters, and calmly started conversations with them, as a person who was perplexed by their positions. Pictured above is one of the sealed masks I offered to each of the vaccine protestors

Some responses from protestors included:

  • “There is no pandemic – it’s manufactured”

  • “More people die from getting the COVID vaccine than from COVID itself”

  • “We’re all going to die someday”

  • “Your car kills, so don’t you dare drive your car!”

  • “I don’t believe in COVID, but I have natural immunity because I had COVID”

  • “Healthcare workers have never brought COVID-19 into health care facilities”

  • “You should be so grateful that I’m out here for your freedom”.

Suffice to say — we did not find any mutual points of agreement.

So, why did I subject myself to such unwinnable debates?

I believe we cannot let these voices be the only ones speaking on behalf of our community. We must be brave, and commit ourselves to talking with neighbors we disagree with.

By providing a different COVID-19 narrative, some doubt may seep in; when asked why I was wearing a mask, I said, “to protect my 91-year-old Mom, and to protect you”. Many had the grace to look ashamed, but others told me to go home if I was so afraid to live.

Perhaps, though, if a tiny seed of compassion takes root from a different example, a new idea could take root: that of seeking freedom through the common good and a connected community, rather than a selfish adherence to the idea of “personal freedoms”.

UPDATE: A Federal judge has halted President Biden’s Vaccine Mandate for Health workers, pending judicial review:

One of my favorite authors, Chris LaTray has this to say about the vaccine mandate:

“…The authoritarianism I see in the Covid response, at least in the USA, isn't coming from the pro-vaccine crowd... It is [coming] from the racists and fascists who worked people up to try and overthrow the government on January 6th. It is the type of “Christians” who hate anyone who isn't CIS, hetero-normative, and white like them. It is the people who spread fear and threaten violence at school board meetings. It is from people stewing in their own cruelty, inhumanity, and lust for power and wealth at any cost….”

“I don't trust the government. I don't trust corporations or the capitalistic nature of our society. I don't trust “experts” bloviating as talking heads on corporate media or websites. But I do trust my friends and acquaintances who work in the healthcare industry who just want to go to work, help people, and then go home to their families. They are the ones reporting that intensive care facilities are overrun. They are the ones telling stories of people's last dying moments, begging, too late, for vaccines. They are the ones saying masks and vaccines save lives. They are the ones exhausted and, in many cases, dying alongside their patients.” “I have a smaller circle of people I interact with on a regular basis now than at any point ever in my life and yeah, it sucks sometimes. Covid is only part of it. I rue many of the circumstances that have created this situation and sometimes crash emotionally because of it. But that doesn't mean I'm ready to give up. It doesn't mean I am ready to stop loving the world.”

- Excerpts from “Arrogant and Entitled"

An Irritable Metis (subscribe at

It all seems pretty bleak. I think LaTray is right. In these circumstances, we have to love more, not less. We are measured by what we do when times are tough, not when the going is easy.

Be gentle, get vaccinated, and wear a mask.

Do it for others.

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Campaign Biography Melissa Smith, Candidate for Montana House District 23 I’m Melissa Smith, and I’m a Montanan, a professional pianist, and teacher, currently working in Great Falls. I was raised in