Thousands gather outside Los Angeles City Hall Monday to protest the mandate for all city workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 18.
The vaccine requirements for city workers are meant to increase vaccination rates and stave off another deadly COVID-19 surge as the virus continues to circulate and the more-transmissible delta variant spreads.
The group Firefighters 4 Freedom organized the rally, dubbed “A March for Freedom,” saying it will be attended by firefighters, police officers, electrical workers, sanitation workers and city government employees.
Aerial video from Sky5 showed a large crowd of people gathered in the area of 200 Main St. around 11 a.m., many carrying “thin blue line” and “thin red line” flags, and signs including ones saying “stop the mandate.”
Retried LAPD Detective Moses Castillo was attending the rally.
“I’m here to show support for the men and women in law enforcement, the firefighters, those working in sanitation… who are here not so much against being vaccinated, or the vaccine, but they’re against being forced to do so by our local government,” Castillo explained.
John Knox, of Firefighters 4 Freedom, called the mandates unconstitutional.
“That’s an overreach on the government’s part, because it’s not your right to tell me what I do with my health care, what I put into my body,” Knox said.
A flyer for the rally calls for participants to speak out against both local mandates and federal ones.
The Biden Administration last week announced that Americans working at companies with 100 or more employees will need to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, or get tested for the virus weekly.
In L.A., Mayor Eric Garcetti warned that city employees who don’t get vaccinated by Dec. 18 “should be prepared to lose their job.”
The L.A. City Council in August passed an ordinance requiring all city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they are granted an exemption for medical or religious reasons.
The deadline for L.A. workers was initially set for an earlier date, but was extended by the city council to give unvaccinated workers more time to comply.
The ordinance states that the requirement is meant to protect the city’s workforce, and the public that it serves, against COVID-19, which was responsible for 26,750 deaths countywide.
The Los Angeles firefighters union last week voiced their opposition to the city’s mandate, saying officials should allow firefighters to choose between getting the shot or tested weekly.
Members of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City President Freddy Escobar warned that the L.A. Fire Department is already facing staffing shortages that could worsen as a result of the mandate, the L.A. Times reported.