American flags were raised high and bright red "Make America Great Again" hats sprinkled the crowd. Nearly 100 protesters gathered at Window on the Bay in Monterey on Friday afternoon to protest what they called "California's endless lockdown."
"Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!" many chanted.
Many passing drivers on Del Monte Avenue honked their car horns in support, though one passing driver shouted, "dumbasses!"
Among protesters, people shook hands, social distancing was virtually nonexistent and even though health order now requires Monterey County residents to wear masks in public, only about half of the attendees were wearing them.
"Mandatory making us wear masks is just unrealistic," says Sabrina Manzoni of Carmel, who did not wear a mask at the protest. "It's been proven they don't do anything. They get contaminated and if you sneeze through a cloth mask it will just go through the fabric anyway."
The protest brought together people who ultimately wanted the same thing—the reopening of the state—for very different reasons. For Manzoni, the owner of Manzoni Cellars, the protest was about ending the shelter-in-place order so businesses like hers could reopen. It was also about the lies she believes the government and hospitals are telling citizens.
For others, it represented one small fight against what they believe is a hoax (the coronavirus, which has killed more than 200,000 people) in a much bigger war on their freedoms.
"This country was based on biblical principles, and when politics get in the way and take away freedom from people, we are in trouble," says Monterey resident Alexander Holodiloff. "Then we are just like any other nation that has given in to democracy or mob rule or whatever you want to call it."
Also among the protesters was Jeff Gorman, who is the Republican candidate for Congress for District 20.
Despite the prevailing belief among protesters that Covid-19 is no more dangerous than the flu, there were people holding signs asking for the mindful reopening of the state. They called to reopen the economy, but with social distancing protocols and masks.