Anti-mandate protesters bang on windows of Healdsburg City Hall

Dozens of people showed up Monday to lend support of Councilmember Skylaer Palacios, and to denounce the rule that keeps her from attending meetings because she isn’t vaccinated.|

Somewhere between 60 to 80 people showed up to protest vaccination mandates at Healdsburg City Hall on Monday night, knocking on the glass windows of the public chambers during a meeting of the town’s City Council as they demanded to be let inside a space that is currently governed by a vaccination requirement.

A portion of the demonstrators were finally able to enter the building’s lobby, but were told the regularly scheduled meeting had gone virtual only due to the tense atmosphere.

“We won!” a protester shouted at the news.

Healdsburg has become a local flashpoint in the debate over public mandates, following City Councilmember Skylaer Palacios’ public acknowledgment that she is not vaccinated against the coronavirus, and her stated view that requiring proof of immunization to enter the council chambers is discriminatory.

Participants in the self-described “Freedom Rally” held up signs that read “End Segregation Now” and “Stop the ‘Vaccine’ Mandates” and “Media Is a Virus,” and waved to passing cars on Grove Street. A few drivers honked in support. One man flipped off the crowd.

Many of those in attendance were from Healdsburg, many others were not. The latter included residents of Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sebastopol and Ukiah.

“Our democracy is under serious threat,” said Jacob Martin, who lives in Healdsburg. “(Palacios) is banned from coming into a meeting. That’s Orwellian.”

The mood was generally upbeat outside City Hall, even festive at times.

The main promoters of the event, Santa Rosa couple Shelby Pryor and Adina Flores, rolled up in a bus that included a potent sound system, and the protest gained a soundtrack that included tracks such as Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier.”

Asked if she was happy with the turnout, Flores said only, “I’m just happy to be here tonight.”

There was anger, too, though.

One woman, after trying a back door and finding it locked, got into an exchange with a bystander and loudly compared the restriction to what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust.

A woman from Mendocino County, after getting into the lobby, told a Press Democrat photographer he would have been targeted by laws like this under the forced relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II. The photographer is Chinese American.

One person not seen at the event was Palacios, who was participating in a closed City Council session for an annual job review of the city attorney from 5 to 6 p.m., then a regular council meeting slated to begin at 6 p.m. At one point, a few of the protesters seemed frustrated at her failure to take part, chanting, “Where is Skylaer?”

In addition to public rallies, Flores and Pryor are seeking to push the Healdsburg City Council to drop its mandate under threat of a potential lawsuit.

“I have previously informed the council that they are currently in violation of the federal law by refusing us access to the council chambers, as unvaccinated individuals,” Flores wrote to all five council members recently. “I do hope that the council addresses this matter immediately following my comment. Should the council fail to do so, mass litigation is at stake.”

Flores and Pryor are opposed to what they see as a coercive attempt by government to force citizens to accept the COVID vaccines. But they, like many in the vocal movement, also reject many of the scientific arguments made by public health officials and medical professionals.

An example is their focus on Comirnaty, the name announced by the Pfizer-BioNTech pharmaceutical company when the FDA and European Union approved the vaccine in August. Palacios has also hit that point hard in recent public comments.

“The only FDA fully approved vaccine was the one manufactured by Pfizer to be labeled as Comirnaty,” Flores wrote to the Healdsburg council. “I visited several pharmacies in the area, spoke with the pharmacist at each location, and they had no idea what Comirnaty was (they had never heard of it). We also called the Pfizer corporate office & were informed that Comirnaty is not yet being manufactured here, in our nation.”

But this appears to be a factual misunderstanding. Cominarty is the brand name for the vaccine we have been calling Pfizer since it became the first to hit the U.S. market nearly a year ago. Pfizer and BioNTech, a German company, could not legally give their product a brand name until the FDA or EU approved it.

Most of the vials currently in use domestically are still labeled Pfizer-BioNTech.

“We can confirm it’s the same vaccine; it contains the same ingredients and is manufactured the same way,” a Pfizer representative told The Press Democrat. “The FDA-approved COMIRNATY and the (European Union Administration)-authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine have the same formulation and, according to the FDA, can be used interchangeably to provide the COVID-19 vaccination series.”

The FDA has said much the same thing, but may have confused the issue by appending this sentence: “The products are legally distinct with certain differences that do not impact safety or effectiveness.”

Asked to clarify what those differences are, the Pfizer rep said, “While the products are manufactured using the same processes, they may have been manufactured at different sites or using raw materials from different approved suppliers. … Approval of site transfers and changes in ingredient supplies are common for licensed vaccines.”

Even those Healdsburg residents who support their City Council’s vaccination requirement wound up peeved at city leadership Monday night.

“I was in the chamber very early, had my certificate checked, etc. 4 to 5 obviously no-vaxxers, maskless, strident, entered later, and the single police officer, who seemed totally unaware of what to do, allowed them to sit,” resident Dave Henderson immediately wrote to the council, cc-ing The Press Democrat.

Henderson said he wound up in a crowded vestibule with the anti-mandate demonstrators.

“I had to elbow my way, since I was now confronted with a potential threat to my own health!” he continued. “Someone turned out the lights in the council chamber and word spread that the meeting had been canceled. No announcement. No one in charge. What a mess!”

You can reach Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or On Twitter @Skinny_Post.

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