CALIFORNIA—Friday, May 1 drew protesters to Los Angeles City Hall, pushing for an end to the state-mandated precautionary measures against the novel coronavirus. They were met with counter-protesters, elevating tensions and creating conflict.
The protesters demanded several things from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, including a lift of the lockdown placed on non-essential businesses, an end to the shelter-in-place order, the opening of public parks and beaches, and that the decision of whether to wear protective equipment in public be left up to the individual.
The group held signs calling “all jobs essential,” “begging for a haircut,” and advocating for the recall of Gov. Newsom. Some held American flags or had them draped around their shoulders and many participated in chants of “Reopen California.” Protesters were oftentimes not following the safety guidelines set by the government, such as wearing facemasks or physical distancing. Protesters referenced their First Amendment right to assemble as justification.
As counter-protesters began to arrive, tensions rose. Yielding signs with phrases such as “Relief not Reopening,” they engaged in sometimes hostile exchanges. Officials saw everything from civil confrontation to shouting matches.
“You’re going to have some tension at protests, but that’s why they’re protests. People are exercising their rights. We’re just here to help them facilitate, and there were no issues.” LAPD Officer Drake Madison told the Los Angeles Daily News.
Gov. Newsom gave a statement later in the day, urging citizens to “do justice to physical distancing.” In reference to the protesters, he added, “I appreciate expression, I appreciate points of view.” Newson faces dozens of lawsuits from parties such as Huntington Beach, the Evangelical church, and several small businesses, all claiming his coronavirus closures are hurting the public.