Over 1,000 people gathered in downtown Los Angeles Sunday to protest COVID vaccine mandates, saying that rules requiring workers at many government agencies and private companies to get vaccinated are unconstitutional and have cost thousands of people their jobs.
"We're here to re-claim our territory," master of ceremonies Kevin Jenkins told the crowd at Grand Park after singer Jimmy Levy performed the national anthem. "We're going to re-generate the soil. This is our defining moment."
The crowd booed when Jenkins mentioned Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, who has come to be viewed by many as the face of the official government response to the pandemic.
Sunday's rally was be hosted by the organization Defeat the Mandates, which has sponsored anti-vaccine and anti-mandate events across the country.
Get Southern California news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC LA newsletters.
The dozens of scheduled speakers included best-selling author Naomi Wolf, comedian Jimmy Dore, former "60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan, Dicky Barrett -- former lead singer of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" announcer -- and Dr. Robert Malone, who was involved in early mRNA vaccine development.
"The idea that our government wants to mandate forced vaccination as a prerequisite to having a job in this state is absolutely unacceptable and, we believe, unconstitutional," John Knox of the group Firefighters4Freedom said in a statement released by rally organizers.
According to organizers, "Americans face growing censorship, and even risk losing their jobs and being deplatformed on social media, for voicing personal opinions that run counter to the ever-changing narrative of government regulatory agencies which have been captured by the pharmaceutical industry. Many feel that discrimination on the basis of vaccination status in countless facets of American life is un-American."
The Grand Park event featured various booths selling black T-shirts criticizing President Joe Biden that read: "Let's Go Brandon" and "Traitor Joe's," as well as people wearing red "Trump 2024" hats, sprinkled with people carrying the American flag and signs reading "Help Us Defeat The Mandate," "Stop Medical Tyranny!!! United For Freedom!!!" "Land of Free!!! No Mandates!!!" and at least three booths attempting to garner petition signatures to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón for his reform policies, which many have assailed as soft on crime.
"I didn't want to get it (the vaccine). I kind of regret getting it (the vaccine)," a 39-year-old Los Angeles man told City News Service, adding that he "bowed down to external pressure. It's something I regret, to be honest."
"I believe in what the movement is for," a 42-year-old Los Angeles guitarist added. "I'm just grateful people are out here today."
The rally also featured the "People's Convoy" of truckers that spent several weeks clogging traffic in Washington, D.C., in protest of COVID-19 public health restrictions and vaccination mandates.
The convoy, which included roughly 100 vehicles in the nation's capital, initially left from San Bernardino County en route to Capitol Hill to protest COVID mandates earlier this year. After three weeks in Washington, the convoy began making its way back to the West Coast in late March.
Brian Brase, a co-organizer of the convoy, was expected to be one of the keynote speakers at the rally, which began at noon and was expected to last until 6 p.m.
When the People's Convoy left Washington, D.C., organizers announced their intent to travel back to California, highlighting a series of bills pending in the state Legislature relating to COVID and vaccine mandates that the group opposes.
"We have an opportunity to help raise awareness and hopefully stop some very atrocious bills before they become laws," Mike Landis, a People's Convoy co-organizer, said in a statement released when the convoy began its westward journey. "This mission directly aligns with what the People's Convoy stands for and is fighting against. Laws first passed in California tend to spread to other states."
Following the Los Angeles rally Sunday, the truckers are expected to head north to Sacramento.