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By FRAN DE LANCEY

SMETHPORT — A small group of protesters against masking and Covid-19 mandates stood along West Main Street Thursday in front of the McKean County courthouse.
A spokesman for the group, Chris Cole of Bradford, told The Era, “We are followers of ‘Citizens for a Constitutional County’ on Facebook.”
While he spoke of a larger group of protestors set to arrive later in the day, that never materialized.
Speaking against mandates that require school-age children to wear masks, Cole claimed, “There is a 99.998 percent survival rate from COVID-19 for ages 19 and under.
“Requiring them to wear masks means they’re breathing in their own stale air,” Cole said, adding that he believes it could be toxic.
Cole then turned his comments to his views on the COVID-19 vaccines. “Pfizer is only one that has been somewhat Food and Drug Administration-approved, but not really all the way approved yet. The other ones have not been FDA-approved.”
Cole claimed, “The only reason they’re pushing this is because the President has made everything into an emergency so he can push the vaccine.”
He also noted the negative effects of the mandates on the economy, especially on small businesses and employees. “A lot of small businesses have already gone out of business, while many others are struggling.”
Referring to large companies, Cole said, “Now employees of those companies with 100 or more employees must be vaccinated or be tested weekly, and that testing must be paid by the employees. That’s too much of a burden on the workers.”
Continuing with references to the economic results of the mandates, Cole said, “For months, the government paid people to stay home and not work, and now the people who are working, we have to pay weekly to work. The government won’t pay for their testing.”
The protest was scheduled from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. In the early afternoon, there were four people carrying signs with messages about the mandates, espousing slogans about freedom and personal choice. Some passing motorists beeped their horns in agreement.
A much larger group of protesters was expected to arrive at 4 p.m. after quitting time at their jobs, Cole said. However, the few who did attend left about 3:15 p.m., according to courthouse personnel.
Courthouse security had offered the protesters an area on the courthouse steps that was taped off for their use, but the group declined the offer.

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