Beachgoers relax, remember and rally on Memorial Day
On Monday, thousands of Americans celebrated the men and women in the U.S. military who died protecting their freedom.
Santa Barbara locals and visitors enjoyed the surf and sun and dining near West Beach as a group of protesters called for state and local governments to roll back even more coronavirus- related safety measures such as mandatory face coverings in businesses and closing hair salons and gyms.
Santa Barbara County restaurants started offering dine-in service on Friday. Prospero Sotelo, manager of the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company at Stearns Wharf, said management has brought back 75 percent of its pre-coronavirus staffing.
“It’s been great for business, and it’s great for our customers,” Mr. Sotelo said Monday as he took orders from a long line of hungry customers.
Sam Alipour came from Los Angeles to visit Santa Barbara with his parents and siblings.
“It feels great. We’re out with family, and it’s good for the soul,” Mr. Alipour said as the group enjoyed lunch on the wharf.
Connor Buell and a friend came to Santa Barbara from Bakersfield to escape a blistering heat wave.
“It’s extremely refreshing because in Bakersfield it’s gonna be 108 to 105 this week so the weather is fantastic. Bakersfield has been pretty open, so it’s not that different from here. It (Bakersfield) is probably less regulated. It feels like there is a lot of freedom that a lot of other beaches don’t have,” Mr. Buell said.
He explained that other coastal communities like Pismo Beach and Cayucos are still pretty “strict.”
“It feels like this is a little stress-free secret spot that maybe not a lot of California knows about,” Mr. Buell said.
Shea Silva and Stephanie Porto said they were in Pismo Beach Sunday night with their children and Morro Bay last weekend. Mr. Silva said they plan to visit Morro Bay again next weekend.
“It feels great. Usually there’s a two-night minimum and they’re $250. Now we’re paying $100 a night and one night minimum, so we like that. We’re from Huntington Beach, Orange County and for us it’s been great, and the crowds have been not that bad. We’re lovin’ it,” Mr. Silva said.
As beachgoers enjoyed their holiday in the sun, protesters gathered around a sign emblazoned with the words “Refuse To Give Up Your Freedoms: Speech, Religion, & Assembly.”
The event hostess declined to identify the people or organization behind the event and called it a “grass roots movement in Santa Barbara”.”
Andy Caldwell, a radio host and executive director of the Coalition of Labor Agriculture & Business; Thousand Oaks pastor Rob McCoy; and Santa Barbara financial advisor Tim Tremblay all addressed the enthusiastic crowd.
“China declared a cold war on us a number of years ago,” said Mr. Caldwell, who claimed U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s chauffeur was a Chinese spy and speculated that the Chinese government may have created the COVID-19 virus.
“We don’t know for sure whether or not they purposefully created the virus in a lab. We have no reason to believe they purposefully leaked this virus from a lab, but we know one thing for sure, they spread it around the world on purpose,” said Mr. Caldwell, who explained that the Chinese government shutdown internal flight to and from Wuhan, China but allowed international flights to continue.
He continued that he supported the initial U.S. economic shut down to “flatten the curve,” and give hospitals time to stockpile personal protective equipment.
“After we succeeded, the emergency was over in terms of a statewide emergency. We’re not living in martial law nor are we living in freedom where we’re living in something in-between. What my dad gave his life for was safety and freedom. We shouldn’t have to choose between one or another,” Mr. Caldwell said.
He said that the coronavirus is most deadly for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems and argued that government officials should have crafted policies narrowly tailored to the needs of those groups.
“They didn’t just hamper our freedom to assemble, to address our government, to go to church, to do all these different things. They also trashed us economically. Restaurants can’t make it with 50% occupancy … the hotel industry is losing $500 million a day. The bottom line is he didn’t just say haircuts were nonessential, operations were nonessential,” Mr. Caldwell said.
“The vulnerable can continue self-isolating, but there are healthy people that need to start getting back to work,” Kristy Caldwell said. She attended the event with her sisters Katie, Kellie, Kimberly and Karen.
“The people that are most likely to get herd immunity and recover can go back to a normal life,” said Karen Caldwell.
Andy Caldwell is an opinion columnist for the News-Press.