The whistles, sirens, boos and chants from anti-vax protesters echoed throughout the concrete courtyard at City Hall, at times nearly drowning out Mayor Michelle Wu as she administered the oath of office to the new City Council.
“This is a moment of tremendous consequence,” Wu told reporters after Monday’s ceremony. “And it’s clear that vaccinations save lives. Vaccinations are the most powerful tool we have to end this pandemic.”
“Despite whatever misinformation or headwinds that we might be facing, we are moving forward and making sure that Boston will lead the way in keeping all of us safe,” the mayor continued.
The small but vocal group of protesters gathered outside the main doors of City Hall, just below the third-floor courtyard where the swearing-in ceremony took place on Monday morning.
Demonstrators were protesting Wu’s new vaccine mandate that eliminates a testing loophole for city workers, requiring all 18,000 city employees be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by Feb. 15. Wu’s heightened vaccine policy also includes vaccination requirements for anyone entering indoor dining at restaurants, gyms, theaters and other public indoor spaces across the city.
The group leading Monday’s event, Boston First Responders United, has organized a handful of demonstrations disrupting the mayor and threatened litigation over Wu’s new vaccine mandates.
Wu has clashed with protesters frustrated over her increasingly strict vaccine mandates at least three times in her two-month tenure.
The group tweeted a link to Monday’s ceremony highlighting “the CRIES of citizens whose jobs are being TORN AWAY.”
Chants of “Shame!” “No vax mandate,” “My body, my choice,” and “Shame on Wu” rang out across City Hall Plaza. One chant harkened back to former Mayor Martin Walsh, who was in attendance at Monday’s swearing-in ceremony.
The U.S. labor secretary, however, danced around directly criticizing the protesters and encouraged Wu to continue to “follow the science.”
“My advice to everybody is that we’re living in a pandemic and we have to be very careful. It’s emotional for all of us. It’s emotional for me,” Walsh said, remembering his time as mayor two years ago in March when he was shutting down the city’s economy.
“We haven’t recovered yet. And our first responders went to work every day, and our nurses went to work every day, and our grocery store workers went to work every day,” he said.
Wu admitted the ongoing pandemic “feels exhausting and scary” to many.
“We are facing yet another winter surge. COVID continues to upend our lives in so many ways. But the best thing we can do is to come together and protect each other. Every person that gets vaccinated is protection not just for themselves, but for their families and communities,” she said.
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