Thousands of Californians congregated at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Friday to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home orders. Authorities arrested 32 demonstrators for violating the state-mandated lockdown.
The California Highway Patrol said they arrested 32 people for disobeying a lawful order, demonstrating without a permit, and resisting or delaying a police officer during the rally urging state politicians to reopen California.
The protests started at noon on Friday, the same time as Newsom’s daily coronavirus news briefing. There were at least 500 cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs, and vans that circled the Capitol building to create gridlock. Large crowds assembled on the Capitol grounds.
“I’m passionate about participatory democracy,” Newsom said of the protests during his COVID-19 press conference on Friday. “All I ask is, just do it safely.”
“As it relates to the protesters, all I ask for is this,” the California governor added. “That is take care of yourself, wear a face covering, do justice to physical distancing. You don’t want to contract this disease.”
A majority of the protesters did not adhere to social distancing guidelines, and most did not wear face masks.
“You don’t want to contract this disease,” the Democratic governor warned. “This disease doesn’t know if you’re a protester, a Democrat, a Republican … so protect yourself, protect your family … your friends, your neighbors, people that you’re protesting with. That’s all I would say to them, and thank them for their expression of free speech.”
Newsom said that the state is possibly “days, not weeks” away from reopening.
“So, I just want folks to know we’re getting very close to making really meaningful augmentations to that stay at home order,” Newsom stated. “We are, I want to say many days, not weeks, as long as we continue to be prudent and thoughtful in certain modifications.”
Newsom also proclaimed that the shutdown protest would have no bearing on when California would reopen.
“Politics will not drive our decision making. Protests will not drive our decision making. Political pressure will not drive our decision making,” Newsom said.
There were at least 11 protests organized in California for Friday, including rallies in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Ventura, and Huntington Beach.
Several of the demonstrations were organized by Facebook groups who demand that the Golden State reopen for business. The largest is “Reopen California,” a group of over 135,000 members that advocates the state reopen, and says the lockdown is not sustainable, especially for small businesses.
California has been on a state-mandated lockdown since March 19, when it became the first state to implement stay-at-home orders.
California has over 52,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,134 COVID-19 deaths.