A couple hundred people gathered at the Huntington Beach Pier on Monday afternoon, protesting against vaccine mandates for their children.
The rally, dubbed “The Capital to the Coast Stand Up and Sit Out,” was organized by the Unity Project. Rallies were set for Monday in Huntington Beach and Sacramento as California state legislators reconvene and consider legislation that the nonprofit claims will impose unconstitutional mandates and take away parent choice.
A handful of children joined in Monday’s rally. Sarah Aguayo of Huntington Beach, who wore a T-shirt that read, “I don’t co-parent with the government,” brought her daughter Grace, a seventh-grade student, and her son Max, a fourth-grader, to the rally. Both are now home-schooled after formerly being enrolled in the Huntington Beach City School District.
“It was not the most nurturing environment,” said Aguayo, a former teacher in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. “We decided to take our education in our own hands … [I’m here] to stand with the families that want choice for their kids. I mean, that’s all we’re asking for. I’m not against vaccines, but I do want a choice for my own children. My kids deserve an education. I pay taxes, and they have a right to be able to go to school in person.”
One bill, originally proposed by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) before being shelved last summer, would have called for Californians to show proof that they are vaccinated to enter many indoor businesses. Such a mandate has been in effect in Los Angeles County for months during the coronavirus pandemic, though it isn’t always enforced.
The bills that the Unity Project says could be introduced during the current legislative session include a vaccination requirement for public- and private-school children in grades kindergarten through 12th grade, an HPV and meningitis vaccination requirement for high school students, and lowering the age of consent for medical treatment to 12 years old.
California Department of Public Health guidelines require students to wear masks while indoors but currently stop short of COVID-19 vaccine requirements. The Los Angeles Unified School District did implement such a policy but faced with tens of thousands unvaccinated students voted last month to push back the mandate to next school year.
The CDC recommends vaccination for everyone ages 5 and older; currently the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is the only one authorized for children.
Speakers at the rally included Amber Smith, a co-founder of Moms on the Ground, which describes itself as a grassroots movement that supports parent choice.
“I’m more than just a mom,” Smith said. “I’m a fighter, and I’m a protector. It is our job to protect all of our children. We all need to join together and keep fighting this mandate for a vaccine that these children don’t need. Since when in history have we ever used our children as a shield to protect adults from anything, much less a virus? It’s our jobs to be an advocate for our children and fight these draconian mandates that the governor and officials have implemented on our society.”
John Knox, of a group called Firefighters 4 Freedom, said the group filed two lawsuits against the city of Los Angeles. One challenged the constitutionality of the mandates, and the other was a punitive damages suit for $2.1 million for alleged harassment, coercion and intimidation.
Knox, a Los Angeles city firefighter, was suspended without pay for refusing to comply with the vaccine mandate.
“If they can keep us in fear by pumping with a 24-hour news cycle that this thing’s going to kill you, then they’re going to win,” he said. “It’s very encouraging to see everyone out here today … We’re in this position because we fell asleep at the wheel.”
One woman who would not give her name said she plans to run for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board this year, adding that she is disappointed with the current leadership. The woman, who held a sign that said “Stop The Prick” that featured pictures of a syringe and Gov. Gavin Newsom, said she’s part of a group called Newport Costa Mesa Parents for Truth & Freedom.
“These are our kids,” she said. “I think parents are waking up. We’re two years into this, and we have better information now, so we as parents have to be the be the voice for our children.”
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