Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
A coalition of “frontline” nurses congregated in Washington, D.C. to join outgoing President Donald Trump’s rally near Capitol Hill this week.The nurses, who have worked with micro-premature babies and in long-term care homes, downplayed the threat of COVID-19 and accused governments of a conspiracy to deceive the public.The health professionals, who have grown notorious in recent months for using their credentials to push misinformation, conspiracies, and sow distrust in the public health response to COVID-19, joined a larger rally organized by pro-Trump forces.
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The so-called Global Frontline Nurses Summit was one of a half-dozen rallies and events planned in the run-up to Trump’s 11am speech near the White House. The nurses were the warm-up act for the “Freedom Rally,” which included former Trump aide George Papadopoulos, who was convicted (then pardoned) for lying to the FBI; Ty Bollinger, who has peddled unproven cancer remedies; and former Trump advisor Roger Stone.The 10 nurses leading the charge set up a website to call on others to join them in D.C.—a call that seemed to go unheeded, as the crowd for the event appeared to be small. The website also allows for donations to their cause. While none of the nurses provide their full names on their official website (despite their long bios), their social media posts from the rally say they are Nicole Sirotek from Nevada; Erin Marie Olszewski from Florida; Nicole Sirotek from Nevada; Catherine Story from California; Alex Flett from Massachuttes; as well as Sarah Choujounian and Kristen Nagle, both of whom travelled from Ontario, Canada.The nurses offered little in the way of clear criticism of the response to the pandemic, beyond alleging “corruption” and “deceit” involved in a conspiracy theory that hospitals are inventing COVID-19 cases for money. The nurses told the crowd that vitamins, minerals, organic vegetable juice, and “ozone therapy” are the real cure for COVID-19. There is no reputable scientific support for those claims.
VICE World News verified the nurses identities via social media pages and their respective state and provincial license boards, and has reached out to the group for clarity on their involvement in the rally, but has not yet received a reply. The nurses appeared alongside Vladimir Zelenko, a doctor who was scrutinized by prosecutors after touting a supposed COVID-19 miracle cure that had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration; and Del Bigtree, a prominent anti-vaccine activist. They also appeared on an anti-vaccine podcast in the days before the rally.
The nurses were joined at their rally by Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase, who is now seeking the Republican nomination for governor. “They are exposing the truth,” Chase said of the nurses. Choujounian and Olszewski, clad in a pink Trump hat, streamed live to Facebook from the front steps of the capitol at around 4:30pm, hours after the riots had broken into the Congressional buildings, and as tear gas was still being fired into the rowdy crowd.It’s not clear if the event received outside financing—a request to the group about funding went unanswered—but the Freedom Rally page reports that they have gotten support from the anti-lockdown Virginia Freedom keepers; Latinos for Trump; and the United Medical Freedom Super PAC, which has advanced COVID-19 conspiracy theories and raised $60,000 from private donors.
At no point were any of the nurses wearing masks or any kind of personal protective equipment, nor were they observing social distancing. At least several of the women flew to D.C. from Canada or their home state. Choujounian and Nagle are both obligated, by law, to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to Canada. Nagle, who works as a neonatal nurse specializing in premature babies, has already gotten in hot water for travelling to various anti-mask rallies.Choujounian used to work as an employee at a long-term care home, but left that job in 2020. “Tomorrow, they go into their concentration camps,” said Sirotek, laughing, referring to her two Canadian compatriots worrying about crossing back into the country. Nagle and Choujounian posted a photo together on Thursday night reporting they were back “on Canadian soil.” The Canadian nurses are already planning a press conference for January 23.Asked whether they had been called in to verify if any Canadians had joined the January 6 rally, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told VICE News that they “have not been asked for assistance in this matter,” while a spokesperson or Global Affairs Canada reported “we are not aware of any involvement of Canadian citizens.”Olszewski has become a prominent COVID-19 skeptic, even appearing on Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show to advance the theory that New York hospitals were over-counting COVID-19 cases. On her Parler page, where she boasts 11,000 followers, Olszewski openly suggests the vaccine will be used to kill elderly patients.
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