GOP lawmakers speak at rally for Koch-funded group behind anti-mask school protests


They also railed against 'critical race theory' and gender identity issues in the classroom.

Seven Republican members of Congress spoke Tuesday morning at a rally held on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington in protest against school mask mandates, critical race theory, and other issues.

The event, dubbed "Government Is Not A Co-Parent," was organized by the Independent Women's Network, a right-wing self-described "members-only platform" for women to discuss and work on political and social issues that was established by Independent Women's Voice, a conservative advocacy nonprofit with deep ties to the political megadonors Charles Koch and his late brother David.

The right-wing Kochs have a rich history of funding supposedly grassroots conservative movements while working to remain hidden, in a practice known as "astroturfing."

According to the Washington Post, Heather Higgins, the board chairman and CEO of the Independent Women's Voice, described her organization as a weapon in the "Republican conservative arsenal," saying in 2015, "Being branded as neutral but actually having the people who know, know that you're actually conservative puts us in a unique position."

Since the onset of the pandemic, the network has directed its efforts toward school issues in the culture wars, fighting mask mandates and vaccine efforts and fueling right-wing fury against the incursion of so-called critical race theory and questions of gender identity.

Protest against these repeated right-wing targets, along with a slew of disinformation, was on full display at Wednesday's rally.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) was the first member of Congress to address the crowd. "We send our kids to school to prepare them for the future, not to see them turn against their own country through critical race theory-inspired teaching. We send our children to school to learn how to read and write, not to expose them to lewd and graphic books in the school library," Foxx said.

"And we send our children to school expecting them to be safe, not to find out sexual assaults are being covered up for political convenience," she added, referencing the false claim that the commonwealth's attorney for Loudoun County in Virginia covered up a sexual assault in school bathroom. That case exploded into the national spotlight in the days leading up to Virginia's gubernatorial election, thanks to a GOP effort to distort the details of the case for political gain.

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) took the opportunity to bash Attorney General Merrick Garland, specifically mentioning a memo he sent to the FBI on Oct. 4 with instructions to meet with local authorities to address a rise in violent threats against school officials and teachers.

"Our top lawyer in this nation, our attorney general, has been engaging with the National School Boards Association in a memo to try and label you as a domestic terrorist," she told the crowd. "That is extremely offensive and it's unethical."

Garland's memo came after the National School Boards Association sent a letter to President Joe Biden begging for help in addressing the rash of violent incidents and harassment directed at school board officials across the country over mask mandates and the perceived notion that "critical race theory" is being used to teach schoolchildren the history of the United States with an "anti-American" bias.

Despite widespread criticism from the GOP, Garland defended the memo at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing late last month, and cited numerous instances of threats and harassment that school board officials have received in recent months.

In his comments to the crowd, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) said that the government's response to the pandemic has "harmed more people than the actual pandemic," but added that the "one good thing we've gotten out of this is, the veil has been lifted on a corrupt education system teaching our children that America is evil."

Both Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) mentioned legislation they've introduced to address the issues that the Independent Women's Network has been pushing for months. Banks said that he plans to introduce a bill in the House this week to "ban vaccine mandates for schoolchildren," while Hartzler mentioned the No Critical Race Theory For Our Military Kids Act, which she introduced in July "to make sure the children of our military are not taught that the country that their parents are fighting for is a bad country, that they should be ashamed and they should feel bad."

Other members of Congress who spoke at Wednesday's rally included Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-TN) and Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV), who encouraged the crowd to "fight back" against the "overbearing liberal activists and politicians who are trying to impose this terrible radical agenda on our children."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.