Updated Thursday, May 7 at 2 p.m.
By noon on Thursday, those who felt the urge to protest California’s stay-at-home order gathered on the sidewalk, unable to access a fenced-off state Capitol.
Rows of California Highway Patrol Officers stood several feet behind the barricade, adding another layer to anyone who might consider trying to enter the grounds.
The turnout paled in comparison to the number of demonstrators who packed the Capitol’s west steps on May 1, when CHP arrested 32 people for failing to leave an unpermitted gathering.
Yvette Apfel drove from Modesto with her four daughters to demonstrate as part of Thursday’s National Day of Prayer. “I’m a Christian, and I think the biggest thing we believers can do is pray and that’s been my stand the whole time,” she said. “You can protest. You can do a lot of things. But my belief is God can do more for us if we just obey and pray.”
Thursday’s demonstration was partly organized by the Freedom Angels, a group that opposes government mandates for vaccinations and that has demonstrated often at the Capitol during the pandemic and last year’s legislative session. Apfel says she supported the movement being part of the rally.
Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered his daily coronavirus briefing during part of the protest, but few people were monitoring. He announced that certain businesses — including manufacturing operations, book stores, sporting goods stores and florists — would be allowed to re-open beginning Friday, with restrictions such as curbside pickup.
But some said the stay-at-home order should be lifted in its entirety.
Eric Toom lives in Sacramento. He said there should be guidelines for avoiding the virus, but they shouldn’t be mandatory. “The lockdown is overdue to be lifted. I think it’s causing more harm than good. I think the social-distancing, masks and other measures that people can take on their own is sufficient,” he said.
CHP had no arrests to report as of Thursday afternoon.
The state Capitol grounds in downtown Sacramento will be fenced-off on Thursday as California Highway Patrol and legislative leaders anticipate a “large” demonstration against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order.
Emails from legislative leaders to Capitol staff on Wednesday evening state that “a large group of unpermitted protesters are planning a peaceful gathering” at the west steps on Thursday beginning at 11 a.m., and that those who want to enter the building will need a legislative identification card.
A spokesperson with CHP was not immediately available to discuss any plans for the demonstration. There are no permits listed under May 7 on the CHP’s website.
The emails, from the Senate and Assembly rules committees, urge staffers to not come to work on Thursday.
“Unless you have an absolutely essential need to be in the Capitol or the LOB [Legislative Office Building] tomorrow, it is highly recommended that you remain at home and work remotely,” one email reads.
Protesters have converged on the Capitol in recent weeks to decry Newsom’s order and demand that the state allow businesses to reopen. Many demonstrators did not wear masks or face coverings, and others gathered closely, ignoring guidelines to keep at least 6 feet from other people.
On Friday, CHP arrested 32 demonstrators during the largest gathering to date.
Several groups have created Facebook event pages to promote an 11 a.m. demonstration on Thursday.
The Freedom Angels, a group that in the past has demonstrated against state-mandated vaccinations, posted an event claiming Newsom forced CHP officers to betray the people they’re supposed to protect and “blurred” the “thin blue line” at last Friday’s demonstration.
In a separate Facebook event page, also promoting Thursday’s protest, the Freedom Angels also aims to involve religious organizations.
The event, titled “Freedom Angels set protest on National Day of Prayer,” states that a pastor who was arrested last Friday, Tim Thompson, will join them.
Newsom did not give an order for arrests at last week’s protest and has deferred to CHP on how to manage the protests. He has urged demonstrators to demonstrate safely.
Last week, a CHP spokesperson said officers arrested the 32 protesters for failing to leave an unpermitted gathering that was jeopardizing public health.
After the first Capitol demonstration against the stay-at-home order, a CHP spokesperson said the department would be issuing permits for Capitol events on a case-by-case basis.
The Capitol grounds, which sees events year-round, does not have any permitted events scheduled until May 25.
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