Homeopathic practitioner Robert Bell speaks at the Advanced Medicine Conference.

Andie Rea

About 200 vaccine and coronavirus skeptics gathered in a North Carolina hotel for a conference over Memorial Day weekend. 

Attendees did not wear masks, practice social distancing, or heed the governor’s guidelines to limit gatherings to 10 people. 

The hotel ended up calling the local police to help enforce social distancing policies.  

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As many Americans weighed the risks of going to the beach and backyard barbecues over Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of coronavirus and vaccine skeptics gathered in a Charlotte, North Carolina, hotel. 

“The Advanced Medicine Conference” attracted about 200 nonconventional medicine practitioners, researchers, anti-vaccine advocates, and members of the public, based on the best estimates of Business Insider Today, which sent a videographer to help conduct interviews.

Very few attendees wore masks, and the group didn’t comply with local guidelines to limit group gatherings to 10 people, leading to police enforcement. 

Del Bigtree, CEO of the anti-vaccination group Informed Consent Action Network and a conference speaker, told BI Today’s Katie Nixdorf that he wanted attend the event in person to support the conference organizer’s desire to “make a statement that we are not afraid of this and that we stand in the real science.” 

Mask-less conference goers listen to a speaker.

Andie Rea

The conference marketed itself to people as “seeking the truth”  

The second annual conference marketed itself toward people “who are seeking the truth, who wish to learn the secret to not only achieving optimum health but who want to know the secret to all aspects of life, who are on the evolutionary path to greater awareness and insight and wish to take the next leap forward,” according to its website. 

It was organized by Dr. Rashid Buttar, an osteopathic physician and conspiracy theorist whose videos incorrectly claiming the coronavirus is linked to 5G technology have been repeatedly removed by Facebook and YouTube for spreading misinformation.

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Judy Mikovits, the discredited doctor who was recently in the conspiratorial “documentary” Plandemic, was also slated as a featured speaker, though it’s unclear if she showed up. 

The speakers promoted alternative medicine practices, such as restorative breathing and herbal medicine, and expressed their concerns about the safety of a possible coronavirus vaccine. 

“The entire premise behind the conference is to show from a philosophical standpoint and from a scientific standpoint, the nuances that are being ignored, the advances in science that are being ignored by mainstream medicine,” Buttar told BI Today. 

Rashid Buttar hugging an attendee at the Advanced Medicine Conference in Charlotte.

Andie Rea

The gathering defied guidelines and led to police enforcement 

The worst coronavirus clusters around the US have been tied to places that force people into close quarters for extended periods, like nursing homes, correctional facilities, and meatpacking plants. Religious services, choir practices, and birthday parties have been dubbed “super-spreader” events too.

“The farther away you are and the shorter duration of contact between you and other people means you get less efficient virus transmission,” William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University, previously told Business Insider.

Still, attendees gathered indoors, largely without masks or practicing social distancing. According to the Embassy Suites where the conference was held, organizers had agreed prior to the conference to limit each room to 10 people, per local guidelines.   

—Dr Rashid A Buttar, FAAPM, FACAM, FAAIM (@DrButtar) May 26, 2020

 

Buttar told BI Today the event didn’t have to comply with local restrictions since the governor’s order allowed exceptions for health, safety, and education. He also called on the First Amendment right to assemble.

(The executive order, which forbids mass gatherings — meaning more than 10 people in a single space — states that “Mass Gatherings do not include gatherings for health and safety, to look for and obtain goods and services, for work, for worship, or exercise of First Amendment rights, or for receiving governmental services.”) 

The Embassy Suites eventually called in the local police department, hotel manager Kevin Plucker, told WCNC Charlotte in a statement. 

“We were in constant touch with this professional organization about changing COVID guidelines leading up to their arrival, yet they still chose to have their group meeting and agreed to the terms about number of people allowed in each room,” he wrote. “On Saturday, when it became clear their attendees were not respecting social distancing requirements, we called CMPD to help us enforce it, which they did. The safety of all hotel guests is always our priority, even more so during the COVID-19 crisis.”

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