PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The majority of Monday's protest at the Capitol were people who were demanding Gov. Doug Ducey reopen Arizona. Still, there was a small silent group of protesters who showed up, too.

Nurses Patriot Rally

A handful of women, who appeared to be nurses, showed up in scrubs, wore masks, and stood their ground among people who accused them of being fake nurses.

They didn't speak or answer questions. Instead, they stood there silently and listened to what protesters had to say. Lauren Leander, who is a registered nurse who works in the ICU at a local hospital, was one of those nurses.

With her arms crossed and face mask in place, she looked straight ahead, standing her ground even when some protesters got closer than the CDC's recommended guidelines of 6 feet to talk at them.

One man calmly explained his frustrations to her and claimed COVID-19 patients are taking priority over others who need medical care.

"It was eye-opening. It was very sobering and very sad at the same time," one of those nurses said Tuesday morning.

"I don't think there's one right answer to this, but there's more than just one side," he said. "We have overblown this so much that we're denying care to some of those people who need care. My grandpa is one of those people."

"A majority of the comments were that I was a paid actor from my hospital or the government to stand there and protest against these people, which was not [the case] at all. I was there on my day off," explained Leander.

"It was eye-opening. It was very sobering and very sad at the same time," she continued. "I think that the beauty of being able to silently protest and not engage with these people allowed us to see what they really thought."

Leander said she it was a last-minute decision to go to the Capitol. She was inspired by other health care workers counterprotesting across the country. She said she has been treating COVID-19 patients and showed up to be a silent voice for them.

"I wanted to be there for my patients that are sick and in my ICU right now," she said. "And I know, as patients could've been out there on the street with me, they would've been asking for the same thing, which is to listen to science, to stay home. And yes, this is awful, and we're all struggling, and we want the economy to open someday. But now is not the time, and we're not ready for that."

Registered nurse, Jasmine Bhatti, says she attended the rally to "be the face of reality." She says demonstrators called COVID-19 a hoax and accused her of being a veterinarian or a paid actor. Bhatti says she's still prepared to help anyone who gets sick.

"If they were to come into the hospital, we're still going to treat them just as any other person who walks in," says Bhatti. "But gosh, it's awful to know that this is the way they feel, and this is the way they think."

Bhatti says she and her colleagues were sure to wear protective gear and practice social distancing while silently counter-protesting.

Arizona's Family has verified both Bhatti and Leander have active nursing licenses in Arizona that are in good standing.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety estimated that there were about 500 people at Monday's rally. DPS Sgt. Kameron Lee said that's just an approximate number because "people began to spread out and move around, including into their cars, which made it difficult to get a good count."


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