Hundreds of people, toting signs and American flags, rallied at De La Guerra Plaza on Saturday in an event that organizers said was meant to promote medical freedom.
The event, organized by Stand Up Santa Barbara, began at Stearns Wharf at noon. Hundreds of participants from across the region marched up to De La Guerra Plaza as part of a global Worldwide Rally for Freedom.
This event was organized as part of a global, unified freedom movement, and rallies like the one in Santa Barbara were held in more than 200 cities all over the world on Saturday.
Justin Shores, the co-founder of Stand Up Santa Barbara, told the News-Press that the rally was meant to promote five freedoms — freedom of speech, movement, choice, assembly and health. However, much of Saturday’s conversation among organizers and keynote speakers centered on vaccines and COVID-19.
“We need to stand up, push back against the government that are just taking advantage of a bad situation —COVID,” Mr. Shores said. I believe (COVID) is bad too, my mom got COVID. But there is a treatment for it that (health experts) are suppressing. They’re pushing a vaccine that hasn’t been tested.”
“I’ll take every other vaccine that’s been tested and proven that it works, and I know the side effects. These vaccines are different,” he added.
Event attendees heard from multiple speakers during Saturday’s event, including Peggy Hall, the founder of The Healthy American, and local chiropractor Hesu Whitten.
Dr. Whitten founded a medical freedom group in 2019 after claiming that he saw many people in the medical community “taking away people’s medical rights.” When speaking about the COVID-19 vaccine, he claimed the vaccine has never been proven to stop infection or reduce death, however, these claims have largely been dismissed by medical professionals as false and unfounded.
Despite his skeptical view of the vaccine, Dr. Whitten told the News-Press that one of his main concerns is “informed consent,” meaning that a patient has access to information before making a decision about taking the vaccine.
“People should be free to do whatever they want,” Dr. Whitten said. “But democracy doesn’t work when there isn’t a free exchange of information. So social media as well as newspapers and the Internet has suppressed open debate. So democracy can’t work. People can’t make a decision if they don’t have access to all of the information. If they’re only getting one side of the story, they’re going to make a decision that’s not well informed.”
The speakers during Saturday’s event addressed a crowd of residents promoting a variety of social ideals and political stances.
Some residents held signs calling for “health freedom,” while others toted flags calling for the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Many waved American flags, while others held cardboard signs with messages like “Pray 4 America.”
Debbie Bailey, a resident of San Luis Obispo County, attended Saturday’s event and held a sign listing the five freedoms outlined by the Worldwide Rally for Freedom. Ms. Bailey told the News-Press that she attended Saturday’s event with six other people from San Luis Obispo who felt that the government is a threat to their freedom to make health decisions.
“People need freedom of choice, so if you want to take the vaccine, you can do it, but if you don’t want to, you should have that same freedom,” Ms. Bailey said.