Following Monday’s protest at the state Capitol where demonstrators defied Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders banning large gatherings, the California Highway Patrol says it will no longer issue permits for events at any state properties, including the Capitol.
“Permits are issued to provide safe environments for demonstrators to express their views,” the CHP said in a statement. “In this case, the permit for the convoy was issued with the understanding that the protest would be conducted in a manner consistent with the state’s public health guidance.
“That is not what occurred, and CHP will take this experience into account when considering permits for this or any other group.”
Monday’s protest, which mirrored others that have sprung up nationwide and have been dubbed “Operation Gridlock,” featured hundreds of people driving vehicles around the Capitol complex in downtown Sacramento honking horns and hundreds of others standing shoulder to shoulder cheering them on as they expressed opposition to the governor’s stay-at-home order.
The CHP’s Capitol protection section, which issued the permit, would not discuss Monday why the permit was issued, instead referring inquiries to the Senate, which has nothing to do with issuing such permits.
That led to Senate President pro tem Toni G. Atkins’ office issuing a statement Tuesday denying any involvement in the matter.
“The Senate was not consulted by CHP and the Senate does not issue permits for events outside the Capitol,” Atkins’ office said in a one-sentence statement.
Newsom said Monday that he believed the protesters had planned to demonstrate from their cars rather than on the Capitol grounds.
But the permit was issued with the understanding that as many as 500 people would attend, according to the website the CHP maintains listing events at the Capitol, and a CHP officer was seen Monday morning directing an organizer where to place a lectern and speakers near the west steps of the building.
Seven porta potties and two hand washing stations also were set up on the sidewalk, where hundreds gathered to cheer on the convoy of vehicles that drove around the Capitol complex for hours.
The CHP made no effort to keep the crowd on foot from gathering together to listen to music and speeches during the event, during which some protesters disputed the dangers of coronavirus and accused reporters wearing face masks of spreading fear.
Additional protests have been set for coming days with locations still to be announced, but the CHP says no such protests will be allowed on state property for the time being.
“In the interest of public safety and the health of all Californians during the COVID-19 pandemic, effective immediately the California Highway Patrol will deny any permit requests for events or activities at all state facilities, to include the State Capitol, until public health officials have determined it is safe to gather again,” the CHP said.
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