Throughout the state’s history (save the last 20 years or so), Californians have been adventurous, individualistic, and bristle at the thought of being told what to do or at being expected to conform with rules set by “the man.” Starting with the Gold Rush, people who didn’t fit in in their hometowns went west to find fortune, fame, wide open spaces, or to be able to invent their own identity. That California spirit has produced the entertainment industry, Silicon Valley, Walt Disney, and much more, and has also led people in other states to jokingly label the state as “the land of fruits and nuts.”
Over the last 20-ish years that spirit has changed and become one of unquestioning loyalty to progressive goals and politicians. The counterculture mantra “Question Authority” was all but forgotten.
In mid-March state and local officials painted a doomsday scenario for Californians, telling them that if they did not “shelter in place” 25 million (yes, million) Californians would be infected with coronavirus within two months, 5 million of which would require hospitalization. With the state having only 90,000 hospital beds total, clearly any scenario involving the need for 5 million hospital beds would be catastrophic.
Having heard that, Californians willingly (for the most part) went along with orders to shelter in place and to practice social distancing.
As of 3 p.m. April 18 there were 30,439 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state and 1,139 deaths, making those projections absurdly inaccurate. At the same time, 1.6 million Californians had filed for unemployment as of March 31.
Pushback against the orders has started up and down the state, and it’s not surprising that Surf City, USA, Huntington Beach, was the site of the first large protest on Friday. Holding signs saying “We will not accept your new normal,” “Give me liberty or give me death,” and “Open Cali Now,” and shouting “Newsom must go,” more than 200 protesters rallied along Pacific Coast Highway near the pier.
Of course, there were scolds online mocking the protesters, labeling them as “white supremacists” and dismissing them as crazy. Dr. Eugene Gu, CEO of California-based telemedicine firm Cool Quit, reminded those doing the mocking (many of whom probably have a stable paycheck) that economic suffering is a legitimate reason for people to lash out.
It’s easy to dismiss the Huntington Beach protestors as crazy white supremacists endangering themselves and others in the middle of a pandemic. But it aint that simple. More than 22 million Americans lost their jobs. Suffering people lash out and we must address their grievances.
The protest was planned largely through members of a grassroots Facebook group, Reopen California. Early in the week there were approximately 5,000 members of Reopen California; by noon Saturday that number was approaching 60,000. More than a dozen protests/rallies are planned up and down the state between now and May 1.