On Thursday, a large part of the State Capitol Building area was blocked off by law enforcement as a large group of protesters swarmed the area to rally against the statewide lockdown.
Workers and protesters met by the California Highway Patrol
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) arrived early in the morning before scheduled protests at 11 AM and constructed metal barriers around the west side of the building, the exact spot where the protest was scheduled to take place. Those coming into work at the Capitol and neighboring buildings were greeted by around 200 CHP officers in helmets and masks.
“It caught me off-guard,” said State Capitol employee “Dana.”
“We’re used to protests here, but have the police pre-cordon off an area like this is unusual. It reminded me of what police did during the Occupy movement ten years ago when they sectioned off areas of college campuses before things got out of control. They’re doing the same now.”
“The only difference is that now there’s a pandemic, and those protesters don’t seem too concerned with public health rules.”
An un-permitted protest and health risks
The protest itself was un-permitted. Organizers of the May 1st protest were denied a permit. State officials, tipped off by protesters going to the event through social media posts and emails to to Capitol Building workers on Wednesday, directed the CHP to take early action against the protest.
While the protest continuing on without a permit did irk some and lead to the CHP to cordon off the area, the fact that the protesters gathered by the hundreds without following social distancing measures made many upset.
“Our state currently has stay-at-home orders in place for public health. Not for the hell of it, but to stop people from getting the coronavirus and dying,” explained nurse Leah Matthews, who has helped treat COVID-19 coronavirus patients in Sacramento for the last 2 months. “They’re without face masks, they’re standing close to each other, and I’m seeing a lot of elderly and disabled people there. These are like a time bomb waiting to go off. Who knows if anyone has it there? This spreads fast, and one person going in can infect the lot.”
“I’ve seen up close what this virus does to people. I can’t believe anyone would risk that.”
Protesters continue push to fully reopen California
Protesters, upset at the lockdown and its social and economic effects, are calling for an early end to the statewide lockout. Many want Governor Gavin Newsom to lift restrictions and for businesses to reopen immediately.
“This is killing us worse than any virus could,” said “Jim,” a protester with a currently closed small business who spoke on the phone with the Globe while at the protest. “We get it. We get the coronavirus can hurt some people. But what it’s doing to the economy is worse. We’re losing everything over this even as the risk over getting the virus is going down all over.”
“I know we’re being made fun of by some people because we have signs asking to ‘bring back barbers’ and things like that, but this is way more than that. This is millions of jobs on the line in businesses with not a lot of cash to continue on with, even with federal help. We may survive physically, but we’re going to be ruined, out-of-work and on the verge of homelessness at the rate Newsom wants to reopen.”
“We’re not crazy. We’re incredibly frustrated and worried and, at this point, we need an economic recovery nothing short of the German Miracle to get back to normal.”
Thursday’s protests come less than a week after nearly three dozen protesters were arrested at a May 1st lockdown protest also outside the Capitol Building.
Despite California opening up some restrictions on Friday when the state moves to “phase 2” of the governor’s plan to reopen the state, more protests in Sacramento and across the state are planned as the statewide lockdown currently has no definite end date.
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