Dozens of intrepid protestors gathered near the historic Flathead County Courthouse last Friday evening despite the threat of rain and the Flathead County Fair taking place on the other end of town. According to the group’s coordinators, the main purpose of the protests was to educate the public and spread awareness of what has occurred with the elderly, with the goal of preventing more isolation for senior citizens in facilities.
Multiple protestors spoke about losing parents in facilities during the lockdowns. The common threads among all of them were that these experiences motivated them to organize or attend these protests, viewing the lockdowns as inhumane and contributing to the agony their confused relatives endured prior to their deaths.
Dr. Annie Bukacek said she was motivated to organize the protests along with Daniel Manson when some of the nursing homes and assisted living facilities started lockdowns several weeks ago. “Last year it was torment for some of these people,” she said. She went on to relay her opinion that a 91-year-old patient “died of isolation and loneliness.”
“The emotional deprivation of not being able to see their families… we can’t let that happen again.” She became emotional telling the story of her own mother in her final days in a facility.
Daniel Manson told the story of his father passing away in a facility last year and he noted that his father had dementia, but was “perfectly fit, no medications.” He had served on the front lines in Korea for 8 months where they called him “the human computer.”
“He’s been through some very intense stuff,” said Manson. “But this he couldn’t handle.”
“He’s scared of the people wearing masks. He can’t understand why his wife of 65 years isn’t coming to see him anymore, why his 7 children, sons and daughters, aren’t coming to see him anymore. After 3 months of this, he just gave up. He quit eating and drinking. He died a horrible death,” said Manson.
“It’s horrible. It’s rotten what they did,” Manson said. When asked if this was his main motivation for organizing the protests, Manson stated, “most certainly. I’m mad. I’m upset. I’m trying to raise awareness. I’m trying to help the elderly here, because they’re going through the same thing again now. It is inhumane. It’s abuse.”
Tammy Woodberry said, “we came to protest the lockdowns of senior citizens, because it is cruel and unusual punishment.” Tammy’s husband, Dr. William Woodberry, a hospitalist, said, “my mom was in an assisted living facility, and I did not see her last year from March until New Year’s, two days before she passed away.”
“From the isolation, she was much more confused, she was devoid of any kind of stimulation and that probably did more to cause her demise quickly than any other kind of disease process she may have had.” Even as a physician, Dr. Woodberry was denied access to the facility. “Their rationale was just ‘no visitation at all. You could look through the window,” they were told.
Rod Sanches, who has attended many protests, stated, “We’re out here making our voices heard, because it doesn’t seem like the people that are running the nursing homes and the schools, are listening to us.”
“We’re out here to change minds, change hearts and this is a very serious liberty issue. It’s more important than safety, because without liberty there is no safety,” he said.
Their efforts were rewarded with a mostly positive response in the form of honks, waves and words of encouragement from people driving by. One detractor, by himself and wearing a black mask, drove by slowly with his window partly down with his hand prominently displaying his middle finger. A threesome of bikers on Harleys drove by with one yelling, “Go home!” Another set of detractors drove by with the passenger “coughing” out his window towards the demonstrators.
Despite the detractors, all the protestors seemed to be enjoying themselves. Coming from a variety of backgrounds and occupations, from physicians to nurses to realtors, raging in age from children to seniors and carrying a wide variety of signs, they continue to meet outside the courthouse every Friday, hopefully, as some protestors stressed, with less rain in the future.
The next protest will take place tonight at the Kalispell Courthouse at 6pm.