Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks to Jackson crowd on vaccines, possible presidential run

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a noted environmental lawyer, opponent of government-mandated vaccines, and presumptive candidate for U.S. President in 2024, spoke in Jackson Monday to an appreciative crowd of about 200 assembled at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and Museum of Mississippi History auditorium.

The son of the late U.S. Attorney General and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Kennedy in April announced his intention to challenge U.S. President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination for President.

On Sept. 29, however, the political news website Mediaite founded by Dan Abrams, reported that Kennedy was reorienting his campaign to run as an independent rather than as a Democrat with a formal changeover announcement expected to take place at an event in Pennsylvania in October

Kennedy appeared to echo that report Monday in Jackson, telling the crowd “I’ll see you all in Philadelphia — you are all invited.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

He also wasted little time criticizing the current Democratic Party leadership, charging the party has become controlled by special corporate interests and Wall Street, supports war, and has become opposed to freedom of speech.

Monday’s event was co sponsored by the National Apostolic Christian Leadership Conference (NACLC) and Mississippi Parents for Vaccine Rights (MPVR).

While Kennedy has been criticized for advocating anti-vaccine misinformation and promoting a discredited link between vaccines and autism, most attendees Monday showed support for his stand for what they consider to be parental rights.

“They closed the churches without any democratic process but kept the liquor stores open as essential businesses,” Kennedy said of mandates following the Covid-19 pandemic beginning in 2020.

He said the government used the pandemic to institute “all kinds of arbitrary orders” including lockdowns and closing local businesses. He said that included many Black owned businesses of which he said “41 % will never reopen,” having lost customers to Amazon and other huge companies.

Kennedy also touched extensively on his father’s 1968 presidential campaign where the elder Kennedy was shot and killed by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Having run against incumbent U.S. President Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination that year, Kennedy said his father faced extensive criticism from many sides including students and labor unions.

But he defended his father’s legacy by stating “he set out to unite the country and he did it be telling the truth to people.”

Kennedy also noted that his father was one of the first candidates to win nominations in both California and South Dakota, thus succeeding in his quest to “unite the rural and urban divide.”

Kennedy also spoke of his personal friendships with Mississippi civil rights activist James Meredith, the late Medgar Evers, and his brother Charles Evers.

He also spoke of his opposition to U.S. involvement in the Ukraine war, comparing current misinformation about the war to that which occurred during the Vietnam War up to 1975.

He characterized wars of aggression abroad and the war against poverty at home as incompatible ideas.Kennedy was introduced by Rev. David Tipton, Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church, and Mary Jo Perry, president of MPVR.

“There is power when people of faith come together for a common purpose,” Tipton said, adding, “when the faith community steps back the government steps in. Now is the time for voices of people of faith to be heard in the halls of government.”

Perry stressed the need for “medical self determination” and related a story of how her own child had been barred from attending kindergarten because the state of Mississippi denied religious exemptions from vaccines.

“We were dismissed, we were laughed at, and we ultimately learned that to be effective we had to play hard ball,” Perry said.

She stated that due to her organization’s efforts, Mississippi now has a religious exemption for vaccines effective April 15 which “no state official will ever be able to take away.”

Prior to Monday’s appearance, Kennedy made at stop at the popular downtown Jackson eatery Hal and Mal’s where he shook hands and discussed his presidential candidacy with local residents.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: RFK Jr presidential candidate speaks in Jackson MS