With officials bracing for the possibility of civil unrest and armed conflicts at state capitols nationwide following last week’s siege at the U.S. Capitol, California Highway Patrol officials have denied a permit for a rally in Sacramento that had been set for Sunday and cleared its calendar of permitted events for the weekend.
California’s state Capitol has been the scene of repeated rallies in support of President Donald Trump since November’s election, with scuffles breaking out involving counter-demonstrators, and pro-Trump forces had planned for a 3,000-person event Sunday “to peacefully protest our compromised election”
That “Let Freedom Ring” event was being planned by former GOP congressional candidate Chris Bish, who has a federal civil rights lawsuit pending against Gov. Gavin Newsom and the CHP for a temporary ban the state issued against protest permits last spring to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections.
The Bish event was listed on the CHP’s calendar of events earlier in the week, but was removed after the siege at the U.S. Capitol and warnings from the FBI that armed attacks may be planned for all 50 state capitols in advance of Inauguration Day on Wednesday.
CHP Officer John Ortega said in an email Wednesday that a permit for the “Let Freedom Ring” event — which sought to set up 30 pop-up tents, 50 tables, 100 chairs and 99 flags — was “denied because the proposed number of attendees are more than are being allowed as a result of COVID-19 and due to the potential for civil unrest this weekend.”
Other flag events for Eagle Scouts that had been listed on the calendar are no longer listed, although a “Let Them Play” rally to promote the resumption of high school sporting events is still listed for Friday afternoon.
Bish said the permit was denied the day she filed it and that she does not intend to come to the Capitol this weekend. But she said she had offered specific security plans to the CHP to keep attendees safe.
“I asked that the barriers stay in place, that CHP control ingress and egress through one of the side entrances, either on the north or the south so we could keep people safe,” she said. “I was going the extra mile to keep the people who wanted to peacefully assemble safe from counter protesters.”
Bish also asked that the CHP alter its ban on parking in the area to allow for disabled visitors to access the area. She said she expected some people would end up at the Capitol this weekend.
“I think you’re going to get the fringe on both sides,” she said. “They’re going to do what they’re going to do.
“Me, I’m going to have a party at my house, a barbecue.”
Security tightened for weekend
The state Capitol has been tightly secured since last spring, when protests erupted against Newsom’s first stay-at-home order and additional demonstrations began over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other instances of police violence.
The building is ringed with 3-foot steel barriers held together with handcuffs, and Newsom said earlier this week that it is under “heightened, heightened security.” On Thursday morning, a temporary 6-foot-high chain-link fence was erected around the building.
The governor said he would consider calling in the National Guard “as needed,” and a heavy CHP presence has been evident throughout the Capitol grounds, with dozens of officers positioned around it on foot and horseback, CHP vehicles parked on walkways near the building and parking banned in many areas on Saturdays, when most of the pro-Trump rallies have occurred.
“The Assembly, Senate, and Governor are working together in close cooperation to ensure the safety of everyone who works in or visits the Capitol,” said a joint statement issued Wednesday by Newsom; Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego; and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount. “While we cannot address specific security steps, we are in constant communication with the CHP, Senate and Assembly Sergeants, and local law enforcement to keep the people’s house safe.”
The refusal to issue permits for some events has not stopped protests or marches near the Capitol, where the streets on the west side are the responsibility of Sacramento police.
A demonstration on Jan. 6 brought roughly 400 people to the 10th Street side of the building, where Trump supporters listened via loudspeakers to the president’s speech, in which he exhorted the crowd in Washington, D.C., to march to the U.S. Capitol.
Recall Newsom organizers were there, as were members of the right-wing Sacramento Proud Boys and a handful of counter demonstrators that were involved in minor scuffles. Nine pro-Trump supporters and three counter-protesters were cited for possession of pepper spray.
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