Freedom rally in Oak Ridge protests vaccine mandates

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Hundreds of federal employees or contractors in East Tennessee will be required to get their COVID-19 vaccination due to an executive order from President Biden which includes employees at Y-12 and ORNL in Oak Ridge.

A freedom rally was held on Saturday in Oak Ridge to protest these mandates.

Cecil Carmichael currently works at ORNL and went to Saturday’s event.

“I’ve worked there 37 years, 10 months, and 19 days,” he said. “It has been a good place to work in the past.”

However, he said now his job is on the line because he’s decided not to get the COVID-19 vaccine,

“I asked for the religions accommodation but the only accommodation they were willing to give was to send me home for 60 days without pay and that’s just not acceptable.”

He was one of several people who came out on Saturday to share their concerns about a federal employee vaccine mandate.

Aaron Bell is a security police officer at Y-12 and has worked there for 16 years.

“We were given dates on Monday by management that we have to be fully vaccinated by December 8 or they’re inferring that we’re losing our jobs,” he said.

That’s why he decided to show up to Saturday’s rally. He wants his voice to be heard.

“Getting the word out and having the people support us hopefully, and hopefully enough people will stand up to these mandates that these companies and the government can’t enforce them.”

Tennessee House Representative John Ragan (R-District 33) said a special session on October 27 will address these concerns,

“We’re having an extraordinary session next week that this group is interested in, but also a huge number of these people are my constituents, and Y-12 and portions of ORNL are in my district.”

Employees who are with these companies said at the rally that they don’t want to have to choose between their rights and their jobs.

“These mandates are wrong,” said Aaron Bell. “If people want to get the vaccine that’s fine, but the mandate to tell people what to do with their body is wrong.”

Cecil Carmichael said, “As Americans, we have a right to chart our own destiny to choose what we want to do with what we put in our bodies and I think this is wrong so I wanted to come out and show my support today.”

WATE reached out to Y-12 and ORNL for comment. A Y-12 representative said they do not have a comment about the rally.

“The health and safety of our staff has been our priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Full vaccination of staff reflects our obligation to operate Oak Ridge National Laboratory as safely as possible and a commitment to our community’s well-being,” a spokesperson with ORNL said.

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