On Monday, “Operation Gridlock” came to California’s Capitol in Sacramento, where hundreds of demonstrators demanded “data over dictators” and “freedom not Newsom.” Despite having issued the permit to the protesters, California Highway Patrol, citing some demonstrators’ decision to violate the “social distancing” requirements, announced Wednesday that they will no longer issue permits for any protests at any state properties, including the Capitol — a decision that effectively bans residents from exercising their First Amendment-protected right to peacefully protest on state property.
As was the case in Michigan’s “Operation Gridlock” protesting the “tyranny” of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s highly restrictive “stay-at-home” order, hundreds of people showed up to the event at California’s Capitol Monday, with many staying in their vehicles, while others congregated on sidewalks and state property.
The permit, The Sacramento Bee reports, was “issued with the understanding that as many as 500 people would attend, according to the website the CHP maintains listing events at the Capitol.” The outlet also notes that “a CHP officer was seen Monday morning directing an organizer where to place a lectern and speakers near the west steps of the building,” and multiple porta potties and hand-washing stations were set up for the event.
Asked Monday about why they chose to permit the event, CHP’s Capitol section “would not discuss Monday why the permit was issued, instead referring inquiries to the Senate, which has nothing to do with issuing such permits,” The Sacramento Bee reports.
But Senate President pro tem Toni G. Atkins’ office denied having any role in the decision to green light the protest, saying in a statement Tuesday, “The Senate was not consulted by CHP and the Senate does not issue permits for events outside the Capitol.”
On Wednesday, CHP announced that they will no longer be allowing protests on any statement property, the state’s Capitol included.
“In the interest of public safety and the health of all Californians during the COVID-19 pandemic, effective immediately the California Highway Patrol will deny any permit requests for events or activities at all state facilities, to include the State Capitol, until public health officials have determined it is safe to gather again,” the CHP said in a statement Wednesday, as reported by The Hill.
“Permits are issued to provide safe environments for demonstrators to express their views,” the CHP explained. “In this case, the permit for the convoy was issued with the understanding that the protest would be conducted in a manner consistent with the state’s public health guidance. That is not what occurred, and CHP will take this experience into account when considering permits for this or any other group.”
The man who was the main focus of the protest, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, said Monday that while he knew about the planned protest, he though demonstrators would stay in their vehicles.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times last week, Newsom addressed the rights of residents to protest. “I just want to encourage people that when you practice your free speech — which I don’t [just] embrace, I celebrate — just do so safely,” he said. “This virus knows no political ideology. It doesn’t know if you are Republican or Democrat, supporting the president, opposing the president, so practice physical distancing.”
The protests in California come as millions of residents in the state have filed for unemployment. “Over four weeks, 2.7 million claims were processed statewide, amounting to 1 of every 7 workers in the state’s 19.3-million-person labor force,” the LA Times reported last week. According to the most recent data, the state, home to nearly 40 million people, has had over 33,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and over 1,250 deaths connected to the virus.
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