Vaccine skeptics rally in D.C. today at a protest headlined by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Jessica Wapner
Vaccine skeptics rally in D.C. today at a protest headlined by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Vaccine fears are on display today in Washington, D.C. A group called Revolution for Truth is leading an anti-vaccine event that includes a rally outside the National Press Club and talks by at least 15 speakers. The day will culminate with a speech by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an outspoken opponent to vaccines and founder of the World Mercury Project. The stated purpose of the event is to protest the biased media coverage, exploitation by the pharmaceutical industry and government protection that, the group says, perpetuate the use of what it says are dangerous inoculations.

Several dozen people gathered outside the National Press Club this morning, protecting protest signs with umbrellas. “Safety before profit,” said one sign. “Children I love suffer serious vaccine injuries,” said another. “Our children are not lab rats,” read yet another. Rally leaders with a megaphone led chants of “CNN, tell the truth! CDC, tell the truth! No vaccine mandates! No more lies!”  

Many signs and chants called for a government subpoena of William Thompson, a psychologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thompson was part of the CDC research team that investigated whether thimerosal-containing vaccines were linked to an increased incidence of autism. Following an interview by Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor known for his role in fueling the widely embraced belief that vaccines cause autism, Thompson became suspected of omitting data linking vaccines and autism in black children from the published CDC study.

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Standing behind a Revolution for Truth banner, Maren Caldwell, a member of the North Carolina–based nonprofit organization People Advocating for Vaccine Education, explained to an unidentified cameraman the reason for the protest. “We are here for truth and transparency, informed consent. We do not want mandated vaccines.... We want Dr. William Thompson subpoenaed in a court of law. We need truth. We need to stop all this fake news, the lies, the corruption going on with the CDC.” She also asserted that there’s a link between vaccines and autism, a disorder, usually diagnosed during childhood, which can affect behavior, communication and learning. “They’re telling us that there’s no correlation whatsoever, that vaccines do not cause autism,” she said. “We’re here to tell you it absolutely, 100 percent does.” Insisting that the United States has the sickest children in the entire world, she called for truth and transparency. “They’re paid to give us fake news. We want the truth. We’re not getting it.”

According to the Revolution for Truth website, today’s protest is sponsored by the Vaccine-Injury Awareness League, the World Mercury Project, Focus for Health, the National Vaccine Information Center, A Voice for Choice, the Freedom and Ethics Alliance, and a documentary entitled A New Standard of Care. Supporters include the Autism Action Network, Moms Across America, the Million Mamas Movement and several other vaccine-targeted projects.

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Numerous studies published in the scientific literature have failed to find a connection between vaccines and autism. Despite that, concerns about this link have persisted. President Trump has questioned the safety of vaccines. His meeting with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. this past January stirred rumors that Kennedy was under consideration to lead a vaccine safety commission, which the president has said he wants.  

Meanwhile, on a rain-soaked sidewalk outside the National Press Club, one sign summarized the conspiracy that many anti-vaccine protesters believe is behind the continued administration of vaccines to children: “Med-Pharma compensates government that mandates; doctor vaccinates; child deteriorates; Congress obfuscates. Subpoena Dr. Thompson! #CDCWhistleblower.”

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