More than 2,000 rally in Sacramento to protest stay-at-home orders, Newsom
It was the largest protest rally in Sacramento so far over COVID-19 shutdowns - with haircuts on the side.
At least 2,000 demonstrators came to the Capitol on Saturday to march around the grounds, feast on barbecue and demand that Gov. Gavin Newsom lift restrictions on business, religious gatherings and other trappings of everyday life.
The demonstration, dubbed Liberty Fest, was a cross between a tailgate party, music festival and political statement. Organizers said it would be the country’s largest Memorial Day weekend protest against coronavirus stay-at-home orders.
A massive throng gathered along 10th Street, facing the west steps of the Capitol, with hundreds arriving hours before the official noon start. Two ?busloads came from Southern California, organized by anti-vaccination protesters.
While the crowd was peaceful, at least three demonstrators briefly hopped the temporary fence installed weeks ago along the sidewalk on 10th Street to keep protesters away from the west steps.
One man tried to give CHP officers a copy of a 10-page treatise on the constitutional duties of law enforcement and allegations involving former Bay Area gang leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, who was sentenced to life in prison for murder in a wide-ranging racketeering case that also snared former state Sen. Leland Yee in 2014. The officers refused to accept the document and let the man return to the sidewalk. Then two other men hopped the fence as well but immediately slipped back into the crowd.
Some in the crowd wore T-shirts bearing the slogan, “Resist. Rise. Revolt. Reopen.” Social distancing was nonexistent as the sidewalk and closed-off 10th Street were clogged with humanity. Masks were rare, aside from reporters and the more than 100 CHP officers on hand. Demonstrators said journalists who wore masks were spreading fear. A few people were treated for dehydration as temperatures crept into the 80s.
Rock and country music played over a loudspeaker as some of the protesters marched slowly around the perimeter of the building. A flatbed truck, set up for speeches and live music, bore the sign, “Jesus, heal this land,” and signs vowing to recall Newsom were plentiful. An airplane circled overhead, towing a banner that said “End his tyranny” and depicted Newsom as Hitler.
“We pray for Gavin Newsom, as hard as that is for us to do, because he is so wicked,” Pastor Tim Thompson, a Southern California clergyman and a familiar sight at Capitol coronavirus protests, told the crowd as the rally began.
A card table offered American flags and Donald Trump merchandise for sale, while another vendor was selling shirts with the slogan, “1776. Forever Free.” Dozens of port-a-potties lined the sidewalk, and several area restaurants set up food trucks in the vicinity.
Handing out haircuts
Haircuts, manicures and other services performed in close quarters remain prohibited for the time being under Newsom’s phased-in approach to resuming economic activities. At least one protester decided she would provide haircuts anyway.
La Donna Christensen, 39, a Roseville cosmetologist and hairstylist, set up six temporary stations on the sidewalk by the west side of the Capitol. Despite warnings of a license suspension from the state Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, she said she was out to show that haircuts aren’t hazardous.
“We’re going to do haircuts for donations, basically try to show that being in the cosmetology industry … is one of the most sanitary industries in the state,” she said. “Why do they close down the salons but we can go to Home Depot, Walmart, Target? It’s ridiculous.”
Jennifer Joseph, who drove up Friday night from Orange County, had her 9-year-old son, Jordan, get one of Christensen’s first haircuts.
“It’s time to open up the state,” Joseph said, adding that Jordan had been happy to let his hair grow out. “This isn’t the country I grew up in.” Joseph’s mother said that because she was donating the money to Christensen, instead of actually paying her a fee for her grandson’s haircut, she believed that wouldn’t jeopardize the Roseville woman’s license.
Dozens of CHP officers strolled through the Capitol grounds. Unlike previous rallies, when they were jeered by some protesters, they didn’t don helmets or line up along the fence line guarding the west side of the Capitol. They closed 10th Street to vehicle traffic as a portion of the crowd spilled onto the street and the parking circle that marks the eastern edge of Capitol Mall.
Newsom has opened up much of the California economy in the past two weeks, including restaurants and shopping malls. But demonstrators demanded that Newsom go further to revive an economy that has seen unemployment quadruple since his shutdown order took effect in mid-March.