A group of anti-vax protesters temporarily shut down the COVID-19 vaccination site at LA's Dodger Stadium on Saturday, delaying appointments by nearly an hour.
About 50 protesters gathered at the stadium entrance, holding signs with anti-vaccine and anti-mask rhetoric and shouting at drivers who were lined up for their vaccination appointments. No vaccine appointments were canceled, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Fire Department told BuzzFeed News.
Police were aware of plans for the protest in advance and decided in conjunction with the LAFD to close the stadium gates around 2 p.m. as a precaution, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department told BuzzFeed News. Protesters were asked to leave and complied by 3 p.m., the LAPD said, calling the demonstration a "peaceful protest" during which no crimes were committed. No arrests were made.
Social media posts and a livestream from the protest showed participants wielding signs with false anti-vaccine claims and screeds against masks, lockdown measures, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom. The protesters attempted to engage with people waiting in their cars.
Newsom tweeted Saturday that the state will "not be deterred or threatened" by protesters in providing COVID-19 vaccines.
Dodger Stadium is one of the largest vaccination sites in the country, serving a region currently grappling with a particularly deadly wave of COVID-19. As of Saturday, there were 5,669 people hospitalized with the coronavirus in Los Angeles County, with more than 1.1 million cases and 16,647 deaths recorded in the county since the pandemic began.
Earlier this month, anti-mask protesters calling COVID-19 a "con job" harassed shoppers at an LA mall and grocery store. It was not immediately clear whether the two protest groups were connected.
The county is currently vaccinating residents 65 and older, as well as healthcare workers and nursing facility staff and residents, but COVID-19 cases have continued to increase. To date, 1 out of every 9 residents in LA County has tested positive for COVID-19, and at least one COVID-19 death is recorded in the county every 10 minutes.
Los Angeles County has also suspended environmental limits on cremation due to a backlog of bodies at hospitals, funeral homes, and crematoriums as a result of COVID-19.
Musician and LA resident Mikel Jollett tweeted that his mother's vaccination appointment was delayed due to the protest. His 69-year-old mother, Bonnie, was eventually able to get the vaccine once the site reopened, said Jollett, who fronts the rock band Airborne Toxic Event.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the protest was advertised as the “Scamdemic Protest/March" and asked participants to "refrain from wearing Trump/MAGA attire as we want our statement to resonate with the sheeple. No flags but informational signs only."
State and local officials denounced the protest, with Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez calling the demonstration "unbelievable," while others drew parallels to the far-right extremists responsible for the attempted coup at the US Capitol earlier this month.
Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and California state senator, described the protesters as extremists using intimidation and violence to further their false beliefs. Anti-vaxxers have regularly disrupted the California legislature in recent years, and Pan was assaulted by an anti-vax activist in 2019.
“These extremists have not yet been held accountable, so they continue to escalate violence against the body public," Pan said in a statement. "We must now summon the political will to demand that domestic terrorists must face consequences for their words and actions. Our democracy and our lives depend on it.”