Tens of dozens of community members gathered Saturday afternoon next to Stearns Wharf for a “Worldwide Rally for Freedom,” taking a stand against COVID-19 restrictions in the region.
The rally joined 180 other cities and 40 other countries also holding rallies to protest COVID-19 mandates, according to Justin Shores, the event’s organizer who ran for Goleta City Council last year.
“The U.S. is one of the slower countries to get involved in pushing back against the coronavirus restrictions, at least in saying, ‘No, let us talk to our doctors first. Give us some options before we’re just given mandates,’” the organizer told the News-Press prior to the event.
Attendees flew American and “Don’t Tread On Me” flags, ditched their masks and held signs reading, “Lockdowns are killing small businesses,” “Lockdowns kill” and “Freedom from ALL mandates.” The protestors marched up State Street after rallying near the wharf.
“Most people here are nonpartisan, responding with very different kinds of ideologies,” Mr. Shores said. “People are rallying around health freedom, and also education. Our children have really been left behind, so actually, most of the people getting behind this movement are worried about their children and their children’s futures with experimental vaccines being tested on them before they’ve had a chance to have kids.
“It’s just a lot of mandates that have not gone through our own personal doctors. We want our own doctors back; we want to be able to have that conversation again so we can make an informed decision instead of a mandated decision.”
Speakers included local doctors and physicians and business owners, who claimed that the COVID-19 restrictions are a result of government overreach.
Dr. Alexandra Carswell Engle, “Dr. ACE,” is a licensed naturopathic doctor specializing in personalized natural medicine at Regenerate Health Medical Center in Santa Barbara. She referred to the COVID-19 vaccine as “experimental shots,” and pushed for patient freedom to decide whether or not to get the vaccine, as “it’s still in Phase 3 clinical trial.”
“I think it’s my duty as a medical professional to help dispel some of the lies of how we got here today, so that we can move forward and reverse this and move into a better path,” she said to the crowd gathered. She told attendees that the COVID-19 test — a PCR test — was never meant to determine if someone has a viral infection, citing Kary Mallis, the inventor of the test. In addition, Dr. Engle posed concerns with the reporting of cases, mandating vaccines or tests and effective therapeutics for the virus not being used.
“With these tests, it then allowed us to go ahead and talk about cases, when before, with any other illness in the history of at least my lifetime, and probably all of ours, were we ever concerned about cases of people that were not sick?” Dr. Engle said. “We know that people that are not sick do not expel infectious material to make other people sick, so why are we locking down, closing schools, closing businesses, closing centers of faith, all of that, for people that are not sick, people that are not going to harm other people? These cases are lies.”
Dr. Hesu Whitten, who has been practicing healing systems in Santa Barbara since 1999, shared similar sentiments as Dr. Engle, comparing the COVID-19 vaccine to “birds with parachutes.”
Dr. Paul Aijian, an internal medicine specialist at Cottage Health, also spoke at the event, and quoted former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who famously said in 2008, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. I mean, it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”
“This is the mentality of the people that are running our government right now,” Dr. Aijian told the crowd. “…The government, the mainstream media, a lot of medicine — they’re using insecurity and anxiety to achieve a goal. COVID is a disease and it is a serious disease, but it’s being used by people for a totally different motive than just keeping you all healthy.”
Most attendees of the rally claimed that the existing COVID-19 mandates are “a tool for the government to control the lives of its citizens,” and demanded freedom of choice regarding COVID-19 vaccines and testing.
Julie Thimsen, a resident of Santa Barbara, attended the rally, and told the News-Press, “I think it’s time that our voices are heard. This is unreasonable. It’s unconstitutional. It goes against all things freedom and liberties, and there is no mandate for gagging our faces.”
Ginger Burkholder, a resident of Goleta, spoke to the local business closures and closed schools, telling the News-Press, “I’m so sad for Santa Barbara coming out here. I can’t bear it sometimes.”
Matthew Villardi is a resident of Santa Barbara County, and told the News-Press that the rally was a result of “people waking up.”
“They’re waking up, which is good,” he said. “It’s not about what the mask is — it’s about what it represents, and all you’ve got to do is look at communist countries to figure that out. It’s (about) control.”
In addition, Paige Sleep, a teacher at Marymount of Santa Barbara, addressed the crowd and said COVID-19 has highlighted the need for educators to teach children “how to think, not what to think,” and to avoid instilling fear in the kids.
“I have seen COVID regulations take a physical and psychological toll on students, and I have seen our education system inundated with politics,” she said. She said that masks and constant reminders of social distancing and sanitizing have “instilled a fear in children that they can get ill from breathing air,” sharing a story of a young student who accidentally dropped her face mask on the playground and began crying because she thought she had COVID-19.
“This is what these restrictions are teaching our children,” she said.
The teacher also mentioned the thermometers being used in schools for temperature checks, comparing their shape to that of a handgun’s.
“When I was young, a masked face pointing a gun-shaped object on my forehead would elicit an instinct of fear,” Ms. Sleep said.
Worldwide Rallies for Freedom were planned in the U.S. as well as Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Israel, Lebanon, New Zealand, Scotland, Switzerland and Uruguay, according to Mr. Shores.