A group of demonstrators took to the streets Aug. 31 in Park Rapids to protest against mandatory or compulsory vaccinations.

Their protest signs included such slogans as “Forced is not free,” “Vaccine injury is not rare, just rarely recognized,” “If there is a risk there must be a choice,” and “Vaccines contain aborted fetal cells.” Other signs correlated vaccines with autism, cancer and infant death.

Julie Sizenbach of Park Rapids called it a “march for medical freedom” and said her family was one of several in the community participating in the demonstration.

According to Sizenbach, the number of vaccine doses a person is given by age 18 has increased from five to 72 since the 1960s.

She described the group, Millions March Against Mandatory Vaccinations (MMAMV), as a nationwide movement stressing individual rights and the risks of vaccination.

Comparing themselves to a group that rallied 100 years ago in Toronto, Canada, a member of the group said, “It is our responsibility to maintain our freedoms and continue to preserve these freedoms for future generations. Once our freedoms are lost, they would be near impossible to obtain again.”

“Unfortunately, America is now inching its way toward socialism,” said Nanette Berg with MMAMV. “We cannot continue to allow media to fearmonger the public and propagandize the masses into following blindly. We cannot sit idly by and allow employers and government to force employees and students to forfeit fundamental freedoms such as bodily integrity and autonomy in order to be allowed to hold a job or attend an institution of higher learning.”

Berg described this requirement as “forced vaccination” and called it “unamerican on so many levels.”

While Minnesota requires vaccinations for children to attend school, the group acknowledged there are exemptions for medical reasons and personal or religious beliefs. However, Sizenbach said, some state legislatures are considering bills to remove such exemptions.

Berg said the MMAMV was created in response to these bills, and she expects it to work against similar changes to vaccine law in Minnesota.

CHI St. Joseph's Health declined to comment about the event, but communication/marketing director Sonja Day said, "We are respectful about each individuals’ beliefs and decisions about their vaccination health.”

“Vaccines save lives,” said Essentia Health-West Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Vetter. “They offer the best-known protection against a number of devastating illnesses.”

Vetter added, “Vaccinations protect the most vulnerable in our community – elderly, young children and those with significant health conditions. By vaccinating young and healthy segments of the population, we achieve a concept called herd immunity to help prevent more vulnerable members from getting sick.”