'It's about control': Vaccine mandate protest rallies against proof of vaccination in Highland Park

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Customers at the Walker Brothers in Highland Park showed their vaccine cards at the entrance of the restaurant. The North Shore suburb is the only Lake County municipality mandating vaccine cards for patrons at its restaurants.

Waving American flags and holding freedom signs, dozens rallied together outside to protest the mandate Sunday.

"If you want to get vaccinated, that's great but when a governing body says you can't go into a restaurant unless you have a vaccine card, that is wrong," said Highland Park resident Bill Dahms.

"Why should I divulge my medical history today at a restaurant? This is not about health, it's about control," added protest organizer Susie Wahl.

For Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, the restaurant mandate is about health

"People are taking their masks off, potentially spreading the virus," said Mayor Rotering. "Let's do what we can do to mitigate pressure on our healthcare system."

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However, Wahl claims the mandate is driving customers away from restaurants. She took pictures of empty dining rooms last Saturday afternoon.

"I talked to the owners and I saw the empty dining rooms, and prior to the mandate these dining rooms were not empty. That's all the data I need," she said, although said she does have proof of her vaccination status.

The protest was outside of Walker Brothers, while the inside of the restaurant was still quite busy.

Highland Park residents who counter protested said the mandate makes them feel safer.

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"Matter a fact, I go to restaurants now because I know everyone is vaccinated," said Ethan Bergoff, a supporter of the restaurant mandate. "I didn't go before because I didn't know who the people next to me were."

Under an emergency order by the mayor, the restaurant mandate has been in place since Highland Park's City Council voted on it at a special meeting Dec. 29.

However, the emergency order expires Monday and the city council will discuss extending it at its next regularly meeting. The public is invited to participate. Mayor Rotering expects both sides to be out in force.
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