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MANDEVILLE, La. (WGNO) — “The coroner has the nerve to say that in St. Tammany Parish, we are facing D-Day. What kind of scam is that?” said Jonathan Koeppel, a Freedom Rally event organizer.

In Mandeville Lakefront Park, hundreds of people gathered for a Freedom Rally, pushing to make covid vaccinations and masks a choice. The event, happening less than a week after St. Tammany Parish officials announced that local hospitals are facing a covid crisis.

“The government cannot solve this. Only the actions of individual responsible citizens can stop this plague,” said Dr. Charles Preston, St. Tammany Parish Coroner.

Event attendees pushed back, insisting that they will not comply with local and state mandates.

“Them forcing a vaccine and masks and all these mandates is taking away from our freedoms. I don’t wear the mask. I trust in the Lord for my health, and so far I’ve been healthy and done well,” said Beth Glover, an event attendee.

A Louisiana State Representative also came to the event, urging that masks and vaccines should be a choice.

“We’re facing discrimination like we did back in segregation. We have two groups, the vaccinated and unvaccinated and the mask and not mask. We’re pitting those two groups together and liberty is my solution,” said Rep. Danny McCormick of District One.

As attendees held signs in hand, demanding a choice for masks and vaccinations, a memorial sits in the park in front of Lake Pontchartrain. Visitors can see the 566 white flags, each representing a St. Tammany Parish resident who died from covid.

The rally shows a stark divide when it comes to covid regulations, and these attendees insist that mandates won’t deter them from what they believe.

More than 500 people in St. Tammany Parish have died from covid since the pandemic started, and local officials say the numbers continue to rise. The event was put together by Turning Point USA, a non-profit for limited government.

We reached out to a spokesman with St. Tammany Parish about the rally and have not heard back.