Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher complained about supervisor Kristin Gaspar going on “a right wing radio station” and “calling [her husband] a dictator.”
The Covid-related business shutdown and stay-at-home orders issued by Governor Newsom and San Diego County public health officer Wilma Wooten have led to civil disobedience and lawsuits. A local protest movement began April 18 at the Hall of Justice downtown San Diego, a gathering deemed illegal by the same orders it protested.
A San Diego District Attorney spokesperson says California state law gives the county authority to issue health orders, and “violations are a misdemeanor crime.” The latest update to the county health order on May 1 continues the prohibition of all public and private gatherings. On April 20 San Diego police and the sheriff’s department warned protesters, “While no citations were issued at the protests, that does not mean prosecution will not be sought.”
Protest numbers have grown each weekend since. In Pacific Beach on April 26 for the “Day of Liberty.” At the Hall of Justice on May 1 for “Reopen San Diego” and at the county administration center on Pacific Highway for “Jail Break Day.”
"Reopen San Diego" rally, May 1
Civil rights attorney Shawn McMillan says he came out to support the movement the last two weekends and is reopening his University City law firm after a six-week hiatus. He says, “The longer the shutdown drags on, the more protests you will see.”
He adds, “The concern I have with San Diego is we have an unelected county health official issuing orders and our elected officials are in lock step with those orders.”
Though county supervisor Nathan Fletcher has been the face of the local public health efforts, Dr. Wooten is signing the orders. After the first major protest, Fletcher complained on Twitter that San Diego police allowed hundreds of protesters to violate the prohibition against public gatherings, since the sheriffs had issued citations to protesters who remained in their cars. His complaint was echoed by his wife, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, who on April 23 tweeted, “The push to ignore stay-at-home orders are a minority. And a death wish.” On May 3 she complained about supervisor Kristin Gaspar going on “a right wing radio station” and “calling [her husband] a dictator.”
Shawn McMillan: "People are struggling.”
On April 30 the Republican Party of San Diego County seemed to agree with protesters when it posted to Facebook: “California petulant Governor Gavin Newsom is now enjoying his emergency powers and won’t let go – with mini-me Mr. Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher encouraging him. End the statewide lockdown now!”
McMillan: "I see Trump people down there with Trump flags and MAGA hats, but it’s not the majority. Majority are people who need their job to live. There’s a lot of Libertarians and independents. And some Democrats who might become independents after this. People are struggling.”
Counter-protesters in San Diego have confined themselves to social media, some wishing death upon the protesters. Political activist Mark Lane has been keeping score every time a news article publishes a story about a Christian or pastor who gets arrested, gets sick, or dies from COVID-19. As of April 1 his scorecard read, “Darwinism-5, Creationism-0.” His postings got him kicked out of the East County Political Information Center Facebook group.
Kennan Kaeder: "No rights described in the Bill of Rights are unlimited....You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater."
On April 19 San Diego City Council communications director Dave Rolland went on Twitter and called on reporters to investigate the protesters and lumped Trump supporters and anti-vaxxers with white supremacists. On April 26 former Kevin Faulconer public policy manager Greg Block tweeted: “The Pro-Death protesters have found their way to Pacific Beach, because the lives of residents and workers are less important than the ability to get a haircut and hamburger.”
Former San Diego County Democratic Party chair Kennan Kaeder, says, "No rights described in the Bill of Rights are unlimited. For example, your right to express an opinion stops at the tip of the other guy’s nose. You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater and you can’t advocate for the violent overthrow of the government.
Supervisor Fletcher’s director of communications James Canning says, “The public health orders are based on science, data and are meant to protect people’s well-being, and slow the spread of coronavirus – that is the only motive for the public health orders.”
April 18 rally
The district attorney’s office has received county health order violation cases from local law enforcement agencies outside the city of San Diego. On May 4 a spokesperson stated, “Our office has received 67 cases… They are all under review. No charges have been filed at this time.”
Attorney Harmeet Dhillon represents the organizer of San Diego’s first Freedom Rally, who was threatened with criminal prosecution. “It is outrageous that our client is being charged with a crime for participating in constitutionally protected activity,” Dhillon said in a news release. On April 27 she filed a lawsuit against the state ban on public protests.
A member of Mountain Empire’s Abiding Place Ministries church says Dhillon serves as co-counsel to Freedom X Law, which represents them in a lawsuit against Dr. Wooten and the county of San Diego. He says the county lifted their ban on drive in services on April 20 (the county didn’t answer my question about this) and since April 26 his church has held drive-in services.
McMillan laments that “this whole thing broke down into politics almost immediately which is unfortunate. The First Amendment shouldn’t be a political issue.”