De la Guerra rally’s speakers condemn vaccine and mask requirements
There was not a mask in sight.
But there were signs protesting vaccines and insisting on personal choice and a few American flags as the crowd Saturday afternoon in De la Guerra Plaza chanted in unison: “We will not comply! We will not comply!”
About 500 people packed the plaza during Stand Up Santa Barbara’s Freedom Rally. It followed a march from Stearns Wharf.
At De la Guerra Plaza, the crowd listened to speakers during a peaceful protest of vaccine and mask mandates and restrictions on businesses during a full afternoon of speakers and live music.
Speakers questioned the science behind the pandemic measures and the validity of the COVID-19 vaccines.
During the pandemic, doctors in general have said the vaccines are making a difference, and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has noted that 85 percent of those hospitalized are not vaccinated. There has been an uptick in cases because of the delta variant, and experts have stressed the need for indoor masks and a higher rate of vaccination.
But the crowd Saturday put its emphasis on personal choice.
The emcee of Saturday’s rally, Stand Up Santa Barbara co-founder Justin Shores, told the News-Press he believes the emphasis should be on early treatment of COVID-19 and that people should be allowed to decide on vaccines after talking with their doctors.
“It shouldn’t be a sweeping mandate,” he said.
Speakers and people in the crowd Saturday emphasized the right to choose.
“This is amazing to see how many patriots there are here today, standing up and fighting for our constitutional rights,” attorney Ronda Kennedy told the crowd. “These are our given rights. They’re rights bestowed by the Constitution and fought for us by our founding fathers.
“When I look at California, I realize we are the last line of defense. What happens here spreads throughout the country,” she said. “What we have to do, we have to hold the line.”
Speakers included Judy Mikovits, who criticized the vaccines; Dr. Doug Mackenzie and others.
Mr. Shores told the News-Press he felt Saturday’s rally went well and described Stand Up Santa Barbara, which has the website standupsb.com, as a nonpartisan group focused on education. He said he believes the government should listen to doctors whose views differ from the government’s views.
After she spoke on stage, Amy Bohn of PERK, a grassroots organization, told the News-Press she was concerned about the pandemic policies’ impact on businesses. She pointed to the jobs lost during the pandemic and what she sees as the harm to school children because of school closures and COVID restrictions.
“We were trying to get the word out to our elected officials to remember how their policies translate to the people and can actually be harmful to people,” Mrs. Bohn said.
One of the people in the audience was a nurse from a Los Angeles hospital, and she held a sign that said, “Nurses for Freedom.”
The nurse, Jane Roberts, told the News-Press she doesn’t believe hospitals are being transparent about statistics and that she’s concerned about the impact of pandemic restrictions.
“I took care of COVID patients,” Ms. Roberts said, noting that deaths did occur since the vaccine rollout but she and other staff members were not allowed to talk about statistics.
“We had so many staff reporting side effects,” she said.