Well over 100 people attended a rally Saturday in front of the state Capitol to decry COVID-19 regulations and the conduct of Gov. Andy Beshear.
People from across the region listened intently to several conservative speakers, some of whom spread unproven allegations about the COVID-19 vaccine and the results of the 2020 presidential election. Other speakers instead focused on conservative political participation and criticizing general government overreach.
The event, titled “Unmask Kentucky,” was organized before the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) significantly changed its guidelines to allow vaccinated people to go without masks outdoors and indoors and before Beshear’s recent announcement that Kentucky would end its mask mandate and capacity limits on June 11.
Still, those in attendance had a bone to pick with Beshear and his response to the pandemic.
Andrew Cooperrider, who owns a Lexington coffee shop that previously faced litigation for refusing to comply with COVID-19 restrictions and is suing Beshear for those restrictions, spoke first.
Cooperrider heard several calls from the crowd asking him to run for elected office.
“If there’s one death, or even one bad negative reaction to the vaccine from a person who's already had COVID ... the CDC should be held legally liable for medical malpractice,” Cooperrider said.
He also derided the state’s handling of COVID-19 restrictions on businesses like his. He lauded Chris Wiest, a Kentucky attorney who champions conservative causes and is Cooperrider's counsel; Wiest also represents Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Farmer in a lawsuit against Franklin County's public defenders over alleged defamation.
Wiest was supposed to speak at the event, but Cooperrider took over the crowd once more to explain Wiest’s legal background.
The group Constitutional Kentucky was present, advertising a leadership forum and passing out a DVD featuring pillowmaker and conservative political figure Mike Lindell’s program on the results of the 2020 election.
Lee Watts, self-described “volunteer chaplain to the Kentucky Capitol,” said that while he was not against all vaccines he was very much against the COVID-19 vaccine.
“If the vaccination is so great, how come they have to beg you to take it?” Watts said.
State Rep. Shane Baker, R-Somerset, spoke about COVID-19 and Beshear and even touched on Franklin County jurisprudence.
“I have no intention of getting this vaccine,” Baker said. “... We’re smart enough to make our own decisions on this thing.”
Baker derided the decisions of Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd, who has upheld a number of Beshear’s COVID-19 orders.
“There’s no justice in that guy,” Baker said. “He’s a pure political hack and he needs to go.”
State Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg, who represents Franklin County as part of Senate District 7, was also present.
Mary Lynn Houtz, of Winchester, said she traveled from Winchester to attend the Saturday event because of her disdain for Beshear and her frustration with big government.
“It’s about legitimate representation,” Houtz said. “Our government has tremendous overreach into our business.”
Lawrenceburg resident Katie Howard, who ran unsuccessfully against Southworth in the Senate District 7 GOP primary last year, said she was trying to get people like those who showed up at the rally to get involved in local politics. Then, she said, their views could more widely affect public policy.
“It all starts from the ground up,” Howard said. “Influence has to start with school boards, our magistrates, city councils.”
Dr. Frank Simon, a popular conservative physician in the state, spoke about videos that he had seen on Facebook and what he called a “fraudulent election” in 2020. He claimed the election in several different races was “rigged” against conservatives, citing votes going “through the internet” and using machinery made in “Communist China” as cause for concern.
Simon also shared that he had been hospitalized for COVID-19 roughly a month ago.
To close the event, 2020 Republican congressional candidate Rhonda Palazzo of Louisville led the crowd in a call-and-response style that denied the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
Palazzo called the vaccine campaigns “medical tyranny” and made false claims about vaccinated people emitting particles harmful to women.
“We are finding that the vaccine causes infertility,” Palazzo said. “We are finding that pregnant women around people that are vaccinated are somehow being affected … like a pheromone.”
During the rally, a smaller crowd of people gathered in front of Governor’s Mansion to support Beshear’s policies, per a Spectrum News report.