LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Hundreds of Los Angeles city and county employees took part in a march and rally against COVID-19 vaccine mandates in downtown L.A. Monday morning.
Sky2 was over Grand Park where some first responders, healthcare workers, utility workers, teachers and more were taking part.
March organizers claim that this is not a political rally, but a united front to protect their right to freedom of choice and bodily autonomy.
“This is about freedom. This isn’t about anything else. This is about your rights as an American,” said John Knox, a firefighter paramedic for 21 years and a member of the group Firefighters 4 Freedom, who organized the day’s march.
“We’re here to stand up and say, ‘No, you’re not going to tell us what we can and cannot do with our bodies,'” Knox added.
Back in August, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors unanimously ratified an emergency order mandating that all county employees provide proof of full vaccination for COVID-19 by Oct. 1. Non-compliant employees could face termination.
The order prompted nearly 600 L.A. County firefighters and other county employees to sign onto a lawsuit seeking to halt the mandate.
“Just so you that you know, LASD is not a ghost,” said one protester, who addressed the crowd and identified himself as an L.A. County Sheriff’s Department employee. “You got LAPD up here, you got LAFD up here, you have a ton of different departments.”
L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said last week that he could lose more than 3,100 deputies over the mandate. As of Nov. 2, only just over half of all LASD employees are fully vaccinated.
First responders opposed to the mandate said that if people decide to quit, response times will be hard hit and the public will suffer.
“This is government overreach and people are really tired of being told what to do,” Knox said.
Meanwhile, municipal employees for the city of L.A. have until Dec. 18 to get fully vaccinated. Mayor Eric Garcetti — who himself contracted the coronavirus last week while attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Scotland — has said that those who do not “should be prepared to lose their job.”
City records in September showed that nearly 11% of L.A.’s over 57,400 city employees had stated their intent to seek a religious or medical exemption from this requirement. That included close to 3,000 LAPD employees.
All employees of the L.A. Unified School District are required to be vaccinated as well. LAUSD previously reported that 97% of its administrators, 97% of its teachers and 95% of its classified supervisors had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Employees must get their second dose by Nov. 15, or risk losing their jobs.
The L.A. City Council has been aggressive with its vaccine mandates. On Monday, a sweeping citywide ordinance took effect which requires proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, gyms, shopping centers and many other establishments.