Nearly 100 protestors, mostly small business-owners and church-goers, gathered in Courthouse Park in Sonora Wednesday to protest the stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
One man held a sign that said “Give me liberty or give me death!” with his Twitter handle, @libertylover61, on the bottom.
“I’m here to support the small business community,” @libertylover61 said. He described measures against COVID-19 like shuttering non-essential business and restricting public gatherings as an “overreaction.”
As of this writing, Tuolumne county has of today has only two confirmed cases of COVID-19. However, as of today there are 700,000 cases in the U.S. with the confirmed death toll at over 31,000. Thursday saw the highest single-day death rate in the country at 4,591.
The event in Sonora is part of a wave of right-wing protests against COVID-19 restrictions, many of which were attended by extremist groups like the Proud Boys. Some of these protests were funded by dark money groups including one linked to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Ongoing protests are being cheered on by President Trump, giving encouragement to extremist groups.
While the group who organized and attended the protest paid a lot lip service to social distancing, Sonora’s police chief had to tell organizer Cindy Zelinsky to make sure people were keeping far enough apart.
Zelinsky had a sign that said “Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” It’s a Benjamin Franklin quote. Zelinsky owns a restaurant and a bed and breakfast in town.
“Technically we are able to exercise — go for a walk — so that is what we are doing,” she said sarcastically to MyMotherLode.com before the rally.
Kelly Campagna, a conservative internet commentator with 88 thousand Twitter followers, livestreamed the event.
Californians are fighting back against the COVID-19 restrictions that are destroying small businesses.
Here’s what happens when they take to the streets to protest!
WATCH HERE ➡️ https://t.co/gdHM3HVzcA pic.twitter.com/gY9jX2Xt0x — Kelly Campagna (@warriorwoman91) April 18, 2020
“I hope Gavin Newsom sees this,” she said on her video. As she spoke, clusters of people across the street stood close together and held up signs and cheered as trucks went by and honked at them.
Another attendee was Bob Wilson. On his Facebook page Wilson recently posted a video by white nationalist-favored pundit Tucker Carlson insinuating that COVID-19 was cooked up in a lab in China and a fake news article about Bill Gates’ desire to “microchip” people. Both of these are popular conspiracy theories on the right.
Wilson live-streamed the event on his Facebook page and got almost 6 thousand views and 860 comments.
“You are NOT maintaining 6 ft between you and other people on the sidewalk. Hell the sidewalk is only 6 ft wide. You should be arrested,” one commenter said.
“We need to begin to move forward,” Wilson replied.
“The biggest concern I have is taking away our right to corporate worship,” Wilson said in his live-stream.
‘Corporate worship’ essentially means gathering together and worshipping with others. Many on the religious right from Church pastors to Ammon Bundy have defied stay-at-home orders in order to prove a point about religious freedom. This often has disastrous results, especially for the many churchgoers who tend to be older and more vulnerable to the respiratory problems associated with COVID-19.
“I can’t get together with my brothers and sisters and it’s frustrating,” Wilson told Campagna at the protest.
In addition to being a devout churchgoer, Wilson is a respiratory therapist at Sonora Regional Medical Center.