A crowd of more than 100 people come to downtown Coos Bay on Saturday to protest state mandates regarding COVID-19 safety measures.

The protestors held signs opposing Gov. Kate Brown's orders to mandate face masks indoors and requiring certain people to get vaccinated against the virus.

Brown has mandated masks while indoors at commercial establishments, healthcare facilities, public transportation and at schools. She has also mandated healthcare workers and employees at school districts be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or they will lost their jobs.

Teresa Billings organized the protest that began last week and is scheduled to continue every Saturday. As she spoke to the crowd Saturday, she said those protesting can lead to change.

"You're the leader you've been looking for," Brown said. "I never thought of myself as a leader, but I just decided I didn't like what was happening, so I took a bold stand and look what happened."

Billings said the state mandates are trying to sow fear in the community.

"Let's remember there is one thing more contagious than fear and that's courage," she said. "So, one person steps out. If you want to wear a mask, then wear it. This in not anti-this or pro-this. This is about freedom."

Among those holding signs was 12-year-old Micah Hebert from North Bend. Days before school was scheduled to start, Hebert said he was going to take a stand against the mask mandates.

"What's the worst they can do, boot me back to online school?" he asked. "My parents want me to go to school, but I'm not wearing a mask."

Larry Grove also attended the protest, holding signs to protest the mandates.

"I believe in trying to keep yourself healthy," he said. "That's what I do. There's too much news out there, if you know where to look. But mainstream media ignores all of that."

Grove said he thinks the protests will make a difference.

"It will wake up a lot of people," he said. "I think you'll see the protests worldwide. A lot of people are getting totally fed up with it."

While Grove said he is opposed to mandates, he is in favor of letting people choose how they want to respond to the pandemic. If others wear masks or get vaccinated, he is OK with that.

"That's their choice," he said.

Sherry Edwards stood on Highway 101 holding a sign and talking to people who walked and drove by. She said attending the protest is her way of fighting back.

"I'm out here for my friends, I'm out here for my family," she said. "They're losing their jobs. They could lose their homes, they could lose their families."

Like most at the protest, Edwards said she is not opposed to people wearing masks or getting vaccinated. Instead, she is opposed to mandates that could punish those who choose not to.

"I don't care if people mask up," she said. "I don't care if people get the vaccine. It's their choice. But I should get the same choice and so should everyone."

As she protested, Edwards carries a sign that read "No forced jabs." Force was the key issue, she said.

"They said talk to your doctor, make the choice," Edwards said. "Now it's mandated. Isn't this America. This is what makes America."

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