FOREST CITY — Downtown Forest City will be home to a parade Saturday dubbed Stand for Freedom — a protest aimed at protecting individual liberties in the face of a deadly pandemic.

Organizers have already secured a permit to hold the rally that is expected to draw hundreds of participants. The rally will start in front of the Cool Springs Education Building, with a march downtown toward the Pavilion on Park Square (POPS).

“In a day when our freedoms are being taken away...now is the time to take a stand,” the flier states.

The rally, at least in part, appears to stem from the Rutherford County Board of Education’s decision to implement mandates for face coverings among students during the resurgence of COVID-19, as well as quarantining students. Some parents have been critical of the mandates.

Meanwhile, the infectious coronavirus has ravaged Rutherford County with a recent spree of more covid-related fatalities and positive cases than at any point last year. As of Monday, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported the county has been home to 11,060 positive cases and 293 deaths due to the virus.

Just last week, a student at R-S Central High School died after contracting COVID-19.

Saturday’s rally marks the second protest in two months in name of protecting freedoms. A similar protest was held on Sept. 11 at the courthouse in Rutherfordton.

“A growing number of county residents are concerned about the slow and now galloping decay of personal, Constitutional freedoms,” said Butch Maltby, one of the event’s organizers. “Our nation was forged in the fires of public declarations, marches and rallies. A diverse group of Rutherford County folks will be gathering on Saturday to declare: Freedom isn’t free! We cannot let our liberty slip away whatever party affiliation one may have.”

While the march is reportedly nonpartisan, the parade has been endorsed by the Rutherford County Republican Party and will be attended by GOP Congressman Madison Cawthorne. Part of Cawthorne’s District 11 includes Rutherford County.

Cawthorne was said to have been scheduled to be in town for a breakfast, prompting him to participate in the rally.

“The Rutherford County Republican Party is pleased to partner with concerned citizens in our community who are deeply concerned about the erosion of individual Constitutional freedoms,” said Bryson Smith, chairman of the county’s GOP. “This is not a time to ‘sit on the fence’ nor be indifferent. Want to express your convictions and make your voice heard? Join Congressman Madison Cawthorn and hundreds of others as we assemble to show our passion for individual liberties and all things which have made America great! We hope to see everyone young and old this Saturday... Be a patriot and encourage others to come.”

Plans call for the Republican headquarters in Rutherfordton to be open Wednesday — Friday for anyone who wants to prepare a sign or banner for the protest.

Participants are encouraged to wear patriotic attire.

The event starts at 10 a.m. and runs through noon.