Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Leonard Brophy
Special to the Observer 

California Bans Protests as Coronavirus Lockdown Gets Political

The Right gets tired of having their civil rights denied. Some on the Left starts to loose patience too.

 

April 26, 2020

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A protest last week at the California State Capitol in Sacramento featured anti-vaccine activists and others who are tired of the lockdown.

Although there has been some grumbling online about the severe stay-at-home orders in Santa Monica, so far there has been no organized (or even disorganized) protesting on the city streets. That has not been true elsewhere throughout the country, with protests of varying sizes taking place in at least 11 states. This includes portions of California outside Santa Monica.

The four protests large enough to get media attention in California have happened in Huntington Beach on Friday, San Diego and Encinitas on Saturday, and in front of the state capitol in Sacramento on Monday. The Huntington Beach event triggered some laughter with people holding signs comparing this situation to civil rights and freedom issues of the past (think George Washington, Rosa Parks). And there was a woman who held the sign saying "Social Distancing = Communism," with a photo of it widely shared on social media.

"I think it's really important during this time [to show] that Americans are tired of this lockdown, shutdown... We've complied long enough. Let's open up the country," protester Lisa Collins told ABC 7.

A Costa Mesa resident was arrested at the protest for allegedly threatening a television news cameraman, but there was no actual violence reported. The Huntington Beach Police Department acknowledged the peacefulness of the event.

"Although this event was peaceful, we do not encourage our residents to loosen their social distancing practices just yet," a department statement said. "It is still not OK to gather in groups."

The Monday protest in Sacramento that attracted what the media are saying was "hundreds" of people really got the California Highway Patrol's attention. The state police force said it will no longer allow gatherings in front of the capitol building because the event that was only supposed to be a parade of cars became much more than that.

"Permits are issued to provide safe environments for demonstrators to express their views," the CHP said in a statement. "In this case, the permit for the convoy was issued with the understanding that the protest would be conducted in a manner consistent with the state's public health guidance. That is not what occurred, and CHP will take this experience into account when considering permits for this or any other group."

Finding out "who is behind these protests" is now a mission of various journalists. The answer is more complicated than "it's a bunch of Trumpers." According to various sources, the first organized protest in this country took place in Michigan last week. Organized by a group called Operation Gridlock that was formed by two conservative groups-Michigan Freedom Fund and the Michigan Conservative Coalition-the leaders encouraged people to stay in their vehicles and practice social distancing guidelines, but many among the thousands who came to the rally did not listen to this recommendation.

"Many ignored the demand [to stay in the cars], wrote Allan Smith from an NBC affiliate in Michigan. "Demonstrators, on foot, were seen waving American, 'Don't Tread on Me,' and Trump campaign flags. At least two Confederate flags were spotted."

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A protest last week at the California State Capitol in Sacramento featured anti-vaccine activists and others who are tired of the lockdown.

Chants of "lock her up" (referring to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, not Hillary Clinton) could also be heard, according to Smith. "Open up Michigan" was another rallying cry.

We do not know if these people highlighted by the NBC reporter represented a majority of those at the rally, or if they were just the easy pickings for a good story. The Observer was not invited to the event to get the first-hand experience. Based on posts on the organizers' Facebook page, there were plenty of people who although they want the state to reopen quickly, they do not like that the attention went to the more extreme members of their group.

"The guys on the steps of the Capitol are putting this protest backwards," one person wrote. "Now, we are going to be portrayed as far-right extremists. Thanks a lot jerks...Stay in your damn car and put the freaking rifles away...You're going to ruin this for everyone!"

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