Demonstrators opposed to COVID-19 restrictions rallied Friday at San Diego City Hall, objecting to a tweet by Mayor Todd Gloria that they said threatened discrimination against unvaccinated people.
The group ReOpen San Diego, with organizations Rise Up San Diego and Let Them Breathe, which focuses on children in the pandemic, gathered in the courtyard of the City Hall complex, decrying calls for restaurants to check vaccination status of their customers.
“This week Mayor Gloria tweeted that he would give a proclamation to any business that refused service to a customer who did not have the vaccine,” ReOpen San Diego co-founder Aly Hartmann said.
She was referring to a post by Christopher A. Longhurst, a pediatrician and professor at UC San Diego Health, who tweeted Saturday, July 24: “The first San Diego restaurant or bar to require proof of verification gets unlimited free advertising from the media … and my business for sure.”
Gloria responded “…and a mayoral proclamation.”
Activists with the organizations said the social media exchange amounted to bias against people who refuse a COVID-19 shot and those who can’t be vaccinated now, including children under 12.
“The mayor of San Diego wants to discriminate against children and ban children from restaurants,” said Amy Reichert, also a co-founder of the group. “We should be able to make these decisions on our own and not face government coercion.”
Gloria’s office could not be reached for comment Friday.
The groups have organized similar rallies to protest mask requirements, vaccination campaigns and school and business closures, and regularly voice their opposition before the county Board of Supervisors.
As the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 undermines the region’s gains against the virus, activists are mobilizing against new mask guidance and increasingly urgent vaccination drives.
On June 15 the state’s tiered reopening system ended, and the state dropped its universal masking mandate, stating that vaccinated people could go mask-free indoors. This month health authorities reversed that recommendation, urging everyone to wear masks indoors. Los Angeles County reinstated its mask orders two weeks ago, and some observers believe San Diego will follow.
Meanwhile health authorities are seeking to persuade the 18 percent of eligible San Diegans who are unvaccinated to get their first dose. They’re considering incentives, such as more convenient appointments, along with disincentives, including restricted access to some places or events for those without vaccination.
Members of ReOpen San Diego and its sister groups argued that those efforts compromise medical choice and privacy, imposing on their freedom. Speaking at the rally, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells asked rhetorically how the region should respond to people who decline vaccination.
“Do we treat them as second-class citizens?” he asked. “Do we treat them as pariahs? Do we treat them like Nazi Germany and put yellow stars on them? No, we treat them as sentient adults.”
In response to Gloria’s tweet about a mayoral proclamation, the organizations issued their own proclamation and invited local businesses to sign it.
“Restricting access to eat based on vaccination status goes against our values,” it states. “It is bad for business, bad for the community, and it is completely unnecessary.”
The groups plan to continue demonstrating against COVID-19 mandates, and will hold another rally at the next Board of Supervisors meeting Aug. 17, Reichert said.