Thousands of people gathered outside Los Angeles City Hall to protest the COVID-19 vaccination mandates on Monday — the day the city began enforcing some of the nation’s strictest vaccine-control rules for businesses.
LA now requires proof from full COVID-19 vaccination to enter indoor restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, hair and nail salons, gyms, museums, bowling alleys, stages and other spaces.
Visitors to outdoor events with 5,000 or more people must also be able to show proof of vaccination or have recently tested negative for the corona virus. The rules of the city are stricter than that imposed by Los Angeles County.
The new rules — along with vaccination mandates for workers at many levels of government and for schoolchildren — are highly controversial.
In Grand Park outside City Hall on Monday, Cindy Lazo said she wanted to show support for her brother-in-law, an electrical engineer with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He is the sole financial services provider for his family and is considering moving to another state, such as Texas, if he loses his job, she said.
Lazo, 39, held up a handmade sign that read, “I’m not against Vaxx. I am against mandates.”
Many in attendance refused to speak to a reporter — saying they didn’t want to talk to the “liberal media” — or declined to give their last names, fearing retaliation from their employers. Several gave their name as ‘John Smith’.
David, 52, said he worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for 13 years and was uncomfortable with the pressure of injecting anything into his body to keep his job.
“I am here to show solidarity with colleagues who want to protect and express their physical autonomy,” said David. He declined to say whether he had been vaccinated.
Signs at the protest included “Vaccines Kill”, “Freedom Not Force!” and “COVID vaccines are toxic.” a read “Let’s Go Brandon” — code for “F— Joe Biden” — as well as multiple T-shirts worn by protesters.
Some in the crowd wore hats to praise the extremist Proud Boys, and one person held a sign supporting the January 6 uprising in the US Capitol.
The largely unmasked crowd chanted “Freedom! Freedom!” and “We won’t comply!” Speakers said their constitutional rights were trampled by the mandates.
A speaker played Buffalo Springfield’s 1966 protest song, “For What It’s Worth” — Stop, children, what is that sound? Everybody look, what’s going on? The song was written about a clash between youths and police on the Sunset Strip.
Protesters waved “thin blue line” and “thin red line” flags as symbols of support for law enforcement, and among the crowd were members of the Los Angeles Police Department and Fire Department, as well as other city officials.
A Los Angeles mandate requires city employees, including police and firefighters, to be vaccinated or receive a medical or religious exemption by December 18. In the meantime, they must pay for regular COVID-19 testing by a city contractor.
Medical experts say the vaccines are safe and effective, especially in preventing the worst symptoms of COVID-19 and containing the spread of the virus, which has already killed more than 750,000 Americans.
Police officials have said about 75% of the more than 12,000 Los Angeles Police Department have been vaccinated. Hundreds of employees hadn’t informed the department of their vaccination status since last week, and thousands of others requested waivers.
LAPD chief Michel Moore said the latest compliance notices would be delivered in person to most unvaccinated officers last week, giving them 48 hours to sign the terms or be decommissioned pending disciplinary proceedings against them. to separate from the police.
The LAPD office of the inspector general confirmed via its Twitter account that it had received a complaint about officers in uniform attending Monday’s protest. The LAPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Los Angeles Fire Department warned of service delays if the city loses firefighters because of the mandate. Last week, Freddy Escobar, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112, said 76% of the city’s firefighters have been vaccinated, leaving about 800 firefighters without the shots.
On Monday, Chris, a 39-year-old Long Beach firefighter and paramedic who declined to give his last name, said he was concerned about staffing problems that could be exacerbated by vaccination layoffs.
“It’s basic math,” Chris said. “Response times go up if they have to fire us all.”
He said the mandates were disruptive and those who implement them don’t seem to understand.
“What will happen to those companies? [that] cannot operate?” he asked. “These politicians who don’t understand how these mandates affect people have no idea.”
Multiple speakers addressing the crowd identified themselves as police officers or firefighters and warned of staff shortages and unanswered emergency calls, although serious warnings of mass exodus of public security officers in other cities have not materialized.
Michael McMahon, a 14-year veteran of the LAPD who founded the group Roll Call 4 Freedom in opposition to the mandate, told protesters he surrendered his police badge and gun on Friday for refusing to be vaccinated.
It was “one of the hardest days of my life,” he said.
McMahon said he “could not resign in good conscience to subject my health” to an “yet experimental” injection.
“Thousands of city workers are grappling with these issues related to their jobs, and I want to say to all of you, from the bottom of my heart, I love you and I understand,” he said. “But coercion is not informed consent.”
Other speakers touted homeschooling to avoid childhood vaccinations and touted the antiparasitic drug ivermectin, despite the lack of scientific evidence that the drug treats or prevents COVID-19.
Some of the speeches were laced with conspiratorial and apocalyptic language, warning that if given the chance, people would be robbed of their freedoms.
“We are fighting a communist takeover of our nation,” said Beverly Hills physician Simone Gold, founder of America’s Frontline Doctors, which has been spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and advocating unproven treatments, including hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
Gold — who took part in the January 6 uprising and is awaiting trial on charges of violent entry and disorderly conduct — urged protesters not to comply with workers’ vaccination mandates for the sake of their souls.
“If you bow to your employer, if you kneel to your employer, the scar of your surrender will not fade,” she said. “Your faith in yourself will diminish, will weaken. This is actually their goal, to create a world where people believe they need overlords to think for them.”
Times staff writers James Queally, Kevin Rector and Dakota Smith contributed to this report.