Demonstrators at anti-vaccination protests and rallies across the U.S. last week donned yellow stars and used Holocaust imagery to emphasize their "persecution" for their refusal to vaccinate their children, sparking protest in faraway Poland.
The protests took place after a New York’s Rockland County declared a state of emergency on March 26, following a frightening spike in measles cases.
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In Texas, anti-vaccination activist Del Bigtree addressed the crowd at a rally organized by Texans for Vaccine Choice wearing a yellow star. Bigtree produces audio and video programs arguing the dangers of vaccines - whose 2016 film Vaxxed: From to Cover-Up to Catastrophe has been pulled from major film festivals.
In response to a photo of Bigtree posted on Twitter, the official account of the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum tweeted in response: "Instrumentalizing the fate of Jews who were persecuted by hateful anti semitic ideology and murdered in extermination camps like #Auschwitz with poisonous gas in order to argue against vaccination that saves human lives is a symptom of intellectual and moral degeneration."
Texas was not the only place where those demonstrating their right not to vaccinate donned yellow stars. They were also seen in Rockland County, at a protest against County Executive Ed Day’s emergency order banning all unvaccinated minors from indoor public spaces: schools, churches, restaurants and shopping malls.
The Rockland County measure was the most extreme example thus far of local legislation designed to strongly encourage parents to vaccinate their children. Vaccinated children strengthen “herd immunity,” which protects children who are too young to be innoculated or can't be vaccinate for medical reasons against the highly communicable disease.
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At the Unvaccinated Civil Disobedience demonstration at a Rockland County shopping mall in West Nyack Thursday, a protester named Stephanie Mahairas wore a "No Vax" yellow star on her backpack, according to a report in the local news website Lohud.com.
"This is about religion, singling out the Jews," Mahairas told the website. "This is about the state imposing itself on a person's bodily integrity."
Identifying herself as a Christian, she asked, "Who's next? The Christians who don't want to to partake in abortion?"
Another protester named Tamara Silberman expressed outrage that children under the age of 18 who were not vaccinated were denied the right to attend religious services. She said that the inclusion of houses of worship was “unfairly” directed at the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where the bulk of measles cases has occurred.
"I never heard of a group of people who are being singled out," Silberman said. "They're saying children can’t go to synagogue."
She continued, "How does the government have a right to do that? Americans have a right to do as they please. Americans have freedom of worship."