By LIJ Staff

Hundreds of people came out Saturday night along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville, Louisiana, a suburb in the greater New Orleans area, to support freedom and protest the government overreach surrounding mask and vaccine mandates.

Those in the crowd carried American flags and signs reading “freedom of choice” and “socialism sucks”. 

The rally Saturday night follows two St. Tammany parish school board meetings where parents and others from the community criticized board members for following the mask mandate issued by the state. reported on Saturday, the school board has asked the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to make masks voluntary in St. Tammany parish schools in response to the vocal push back from parents and the community.  

This comes despite the urging of parish officials, and some area doctors, for residents to get vaccinated and wear masks to stop the spread of the COVID virus, and to help ease the pressure on the health care system which, the doctors say, is overwhelming area hospitals.

Neither the parish, nor the state have issued vaccine mandates, but an executive order for the reinstatement of a mask mandate was signed by Louisiana Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards, on August 2nd, which into effect two days later.

Twenty-eight miles across the lake from Mandeville in New Orleans, Democrat Mayor Latoya Cantrell, issued a parish-wide mandate requiring proof of vaccine, or a negative COVID test result within the last three days. Beginning Monday, August 16th, restaurants, bars, breweries, music venues, gyms and the Louisiana Superdome, along with a list of other businesses, will be required to enforce the mayor’s mandate.

Among those who attended the rally in Mandeville and spoke to the crowd were Louisiana State Rep. Danny McCormick, a Republican, who represents Bossier and Caddo parishes in northwestern Louisiana. He said he drove five hours because he supports the freedom of choice when it comes to masks and vaccines.

Local area gym owner, Joe Waguespack, told the crowd he kept his gym open during the first lockdown in 2020, and adding “we will not kneel to the tyranny”.

St. Tammany parish has had the fifth-most cases in the state since the pandemic started almost a year and a half ago.