An “End the Vaccine Mandate” rally was held on Sunday in Highland Park and attended by dozens who were protesting Highland Park’s vaccine mandate on private businesses.
The protest was held around 12 p.m. Sunday at Port Clinton Square near Central Avenue and 1st Street in Highland Park.
The protest was organized by Highland Park resident Suzanne Wahl.
“Restaurants are the anchor of a community. […] We’re losing our restaurants and when we lose our restaurants we lose our community,” Wahl said during the rally.
The Highland Park Police Department and Lake Forest Police Department were both at the rally to ensure safety.
“If you want to get a vax, that’s great. But when a governing body says you can’t go to a restaurant unless you have a vax card, that’s wrong,” Highland Park resident Bill Dahms said.
“Why do I have to divulge my medical history, my private medical information, to eat in a restaurant. That’s not about health, that’s about control,” Wahl told ABC7 Chicago.
A group, that was in favor of the vaccine mandate, stood across the street from the anti-vaccine mandate group to voice their opinions.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, 94.4% of residents in Highland Park have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 82.3% are fully vaccinated.
The Highland Park City Council passed an order on December 29, which went into effect January 7, that requires certain businesses to check proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all patrons, including everyone age 5 and older.
The city council voted 6-1 to pass the motion to impose the requirement.
The emergency order is similar to the ones issued in Cook County, Chicago, Skokie and Evanston.
“Temporarily requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for on-premises dining, where masks are removed for extended periods of time, balances the need to take action to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our area with the strong desire to support our local business community in remaining open for service,” the City of Highland Park said in a statement.
The Highland Park order applies to restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and bars, including fast food and fast-casual establishments.
It also applies to indoor entertainment venues where food and drinks are served, such as movie theatres, live performance spaces, sports arenas, arcades, bowling alleys and other establishments.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said in December that the order was proposed in an effort to combat the rise in COVID-19 cases in the area.
Rotering said that employees of businesses in Highland Park can either provide proof of vaccination to their employer or get a COVID test every week.
Several Highland Park business owners spoke out against the order during a December 29 city council meeting.
Steve Geffen, who owns Once Upon a Bagel in Highland Park, said the order puts his business in a difficult position.
“It’s a really unfortunate position you are putting us in. I believe this will put restaurants in jeopardy of going out of business,” Geffen told the city council members.
“I am really worried what is going to happen to my business. We are already short-staffed as it is. Why can’t you let people make their own decision?” Geffen asked.
Rotering said that she did not think that checking vaccine cards was burdensome, calling it a “non-event.”
The city council will be holding a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday and will be discussing whether to extend the vaccine mandate.